Afro Latin Jazz Suite, a track on the album Cuba: The Conversation Continues, wins in Best Instrumental Category.

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Music Without Borders: Conservatory of Music Professor Arturo O'Farrill '96 Wins Fourth Grammy Award

March 1, 2016

Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music Professor Arturo O’Farrill ’96 scored another victory for his band, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, burnishing his father’s legacy and his own in the process. At the 58th Grammy Award ceremony in Los Angeles, O’Farrill was presented his fourth award, this time in the Best Instrumental Composition category for his Afro Latin Jazz Suite, a track on his 2015 album Cuba: The Conversation Continues. Last year he received the Grammy in the Best Latin Jazz category for The Offense of the Drum.

“The academy’s recognition of the Afro Latin Jazz Suite is deeply meaningful to me,” says O’Farrill, who joined the Brooklyn College faculty in 2014. “This music is my interpretation of jazz; it’s the idea Dizzy Gillespie first proposed when he said there was no difference between Latin and jazz, just a music he called universal. The suite is musically multilingual, drawing from Africa, Peru, Cuba, India, and the United States. It is montunos and ragas, tone clusters and blues. It is a nod to the past, performed now, yet firmly rooted in the future.”

Originally commissioned by the Apollo Theater for its 80th anniversary, the Afro Latin Jazz Suite also commemorates the 65th anniversary of the Afro Cuban Jazz Suite, a melody composed by O’Farrill’s father Chico O’Farrill, a Cuban jazz legend, whose 1941 recording featured sax legend Charlie Parker.

Afro Latin Jazz Suite features Rudresh Mahanthappa, a noted alto sax virtuoso who has earned many accolades and grants, including a 2007 Guggenheim fellowship. “I’m so happy and proud to be a part of this project, and to be working with Arturo and his amazing family,” Mahanthappa says.

O'Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra received a Latin Grammy in 2008 in the Best Jazz Album category for Song for Chico, a tribute to his father, which was released in 2007 by Zoho Music. In November 2014, O'Farrill won another Latin Grammy for Final Night at Birdland, an album he recorded in 2011 with his father's Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to celebrate the band's final performance at the famous jazz venue.

An educator at heart, O'Farrill, who has taught at several institutions, also established the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance in 2007 as a new institutional support for his orchestra and to promote this genre of music through a comprehensive array of performance and educational programs. O'Farrill founded his own Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider audience and to expand the contemporary Latin big band jazz language repertoire by commissioning jazz and Latin jazz melodies to artists across a wide stylistic and geographical range.

O’Farrill and members of his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra have been traveling to Cuba for over a decade. Cuba: The Conversation Continues was recorded at the Abdala Studio in Havana, Cuba only days after President Obama announced the restoration of relations with the island nation in December 2014.

“The Suite demonstrates that artistic expression is not easily defined and is the ever-changing destination of a journey without musical borders,” O’Farrill says. 

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