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

Afro-cuban Jazz Suite

In 1949 O'Farrill began a five year association with producer Norman Granz when he recorded Gone City with his friends Machito and Mario Bauza. The following year, O'Farrill brought another tune to a Machito recording session produced by Granz, that would become a Latin jazz classic and is considered O'Farrill's first masterpiece. The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite was recorded on December 21, 1950 with guest soloists Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips and Buddy Rich. In his obituary of O'Farrill, Ben Ratliff of the New York Times called the tune, "an ambitious work that took the graduated crescendo of Latin big-band music and applied to it a classical sense of contrasting themes and sophisticated harmony."

O'Farrill then composed another classic, The Manteca Suite, for Dizzy Gillespie, before moving back to Havana to avoid legal and marital difficulties in New York. He spent two years in Havana and in 1957 moved to Mexico City where he would stay until returning to New York in 1965. "It was great, for a while," he told Heckman of the Los Angeles Times, about Mexico. "I had my own band, I had a TV show, I made some records, and we had a good life." Mexico City was also the place where he wrote The Aztez Suite for trumpeter Art Farmer.

Returning to New York in the mid-1960s, O'Farrill found work arranging for Gillespie, Count Basie, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and many others. He was also music director for the TV series, Festival of the Lively Arts, and began a long and lucrative career writing music for commercials. "I found out that they were paying more for a 60-second toothpaste commercial than for a full chart for Count Basie," he's quoted as saying in his DownBeat obituary. But O'Farrill still put great effort into his commercial endeavors. "I think one of the reasons he was so successful, though, is that he could never really be a hack," O'Farrill's son, Arturo, Jr., explained to Mark Holston of Hispanic magazine. "He always wrote from the heart. So even his commercials were good music."

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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