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Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill: 1921—2001: Composer, Arranger, Musician

Fused Jazz With Cuban Rhythms

Upon returning to Cuba, O'Farrill made a half-hearted attempt at law school, while simultaneously playing in a number of small jazz groups, such as Orquesta Bellemar, the Lecuona Cuban Boys, and with guitarist Isidro Perez. His father, irritated at his son's insistence on playing music, nevertheless arranged for O'Farrill to study composing and arrangement with the Cuban composer Felix Guerrero. Bored with the music of Cuba, O'Farrill decided the place he needed to be was New York.

In 1948 O'Farrill arrived in New York and immediately became aware of the possibilities of fusing jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Witnessing the work the bandleader Machito was doing with the help of Rene Hernandez and Mario Bauza, of adding jazz concepts to big-band Cuban music, O'Farrill used his knowledge of arrangement to seamlessly blend Latin rhythms and jazz, placing himself at the forefront of Latin jazz. "I grew up in the 30s hearing typical danzon-style music," O'Farrill recalled to Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times. "There were also a lot of sextets, with two trumpets and a lot more rhythm. But what I really loved was the big American-style bands, with trumpets, saxophones and trombones; I loved that kind of sound. And the one thing that I thought Cuban music needed at the time was the richness of the instrumentation of jazz, and of the harmonies. And since I understood jazz and Cuban music, I felt I could bring the two together."

At a Glance . . .

Born Arturo O'Farrill on October 28, 1921 in Havana, Cuba; died June 27, 2001 in New York, NY; married Lupe; children: Arturo, Jr., Georgina.

Career: Freelance arranger and composer in New York, 1948-; recording artist: Chico O'Farrill Jazz, Clef, 1951; Jazz North of the Border, Verve, 1951; Chico O'Farrill, Norgran, 1951; The Second Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, Norgran, 1951; Music from South America, Verve, 1951; Afro-Cuban, Clef, 1951; Mambo/Latino Dances, Verve, 1951; Mambo Dance Sessions, Norgran, 1954; Nine Flags, Impulse, 1966; Married Well, Verve, 1968; Pure Emotion, Milestone, 1995; Heart of a Legend, Milestone, 1999; Carambola, Milestone, 2000; film composer, Guaguasi, 1979.

Awards: Grammy nomination, Best Latin Jazz Recording for Pure Emotion, 1995; Latin Grammy nomination, Best Jazz Recording, Heart of a Legend, 1999, and Carambola, 2000.

O'Farrill made a name for himself in jazz circles almost as soon as he arrived in New York. Known as a competent arranger, most of his initial work was ghost-writing arrangements for arrangers such as Gil Fuller, Billy Byers and Quincy Jones, who had too much work on their hands. Still, he found time to pen songs under his own name, such as Undercurrent Blues which became a hit for Benny Goodman's bebop group.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerArturo "Chico" O'Farrill: 1921—2001: Composer, Arranger, Musician Biography - Fused Jazz With Cuban Rhythms, Afro-cuban Jazz Suite, Heart Of A Legend