Arturo O’Farrill fulfills ‘lifelong dream’ with release of Blue Note album

Arturo O’Farrill signed with Blue Note Records for his latest album, an opportunity he calls “a lifelong dream.”

The pianist, composer, bandleader and educator’s new record …dreaming in lions… follows his compilation of virtual concert performances Virtual Birdland, released earlier this year, and his social-justice effort Four Questions in 2020.

“Blue Note is the home of the greatest music that I have grown up with,” O’Farrill says. “You can’t place a moment like this. It’s incredible, and it represents more than music to me. It represents an opportunity to engage Blue Note’s audience with the many different ways that I express my convictions through my art. I know that Blue Note has stood for that, and will continue to engage with socially conscious art. It’s what I’ve been doing for my entire career.”


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This project finds O’Farrill leading a pared-down, 10-member version of his Grammy-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Among the lineup are his two sons: trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and drummer Zack O’Farrill. Joining them are percussionists Vince Cherico, Carlos “Carly” Maldonado and Victor Pablo Garcia Gaetan; bassist Bam Rodriguez; guitarist Travis Reuter; trombonist and euphonist Rafi Malkiel; and flutist and saxophonist Alejandro Aviles. O’Farrill’s wife, the classical pianist Alison Deane, plays on the final track Dreams So Gold.

You can listen to Despedida: Del Mar below.

Born in Mexico and later raised in New York, O’Farrill has become renowned for his contributions to contemporary Latin jazz since he began his career in the early ‘80s. He started out with the Carla Bley Band before transitioning to a solo career, playing with artists such as Dizzie Gillespie, Howard Johnson, Steve Ture and Lester Bowie. He eventually took over for his father Chico O’Farrill as the leader of Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

The narratives driving O’Farrill’s debut are split between two extended suites made in collaboration with the Malpaso Dance Company, the troupe of dancers who accompany the ensemble on stage. Five movements are collectively titled Despedida, a meditation on farewells drawing from feelings of loss and grief, while the other nine movements are Dreaming in Lions, inspired by an image from one of O’Farrill’s favourite childhood novels, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

…dreaming in lions… offers more of O’Farrill’s most ambitious work as a composer, while staying true to the varied and rich traditions of Latin jazz that have defined his career.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Despedida: Del Mar
  2. Despedida: Intruso
  3. Despedida: Beauty Cocoon
  4. Despedida: Ensayo Silencio
  5. Despedida: La Llorona
  6. Dreaming in Lions: Dreaming in Lions
  7. Dreaming in Lions: Scalular
  8. Dreaming in Lions: How I Love
  9. Dreaming in Lions: The Deep
  10. Dreaming in Lions: War Bird Man
  11. Dreaming in Lions: Struggles And Strugglets
  12. Dreaming in Lions: I Wish We Was
  13. Dreaming in Lions: Blood In The Water
  14. Dreaming in Lions: Dreams So Gold

…dreaming in lions… was released Sept. 24 via Blue Note.