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

Fused Jazz With Cuban Rhythms, Afro-cuban Jazz Suite, Heart Of A Legend

Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill: 1921—2001: Composer, arranger, musician.

One of the architects of Latin jazz, Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill made his mark by fusing jazz with Afro-Cuban music beginning in the late 1940s. Though he would write and arrange music for five more decades, he would receive the most recognition of his career in the last six years of his life. As the author of 1950's Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, O'Farrill sealed his place in jazz history. Following a 30-year absence from recording his own material, O'Farrill re-emerged in 1995 with the Grammy nominated Pure Emotion. Two more acclaimed albums followed, as did a weekly gig at Manhattan's Birdland jazz club every Sunday night for three years, until illness prevented him from performing. He died of dysplastic anemia on June 27, 2001 in his adopted hometown of New York City, at the age of 79.

Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill was born in Havana, Cuba on October 28, 1921, the son of an Irish father and a Cuban mother of German descent. A bit of a troublemaker in his youth, O'Farrill's father sent him to a United States military school in Georgia in the hopes of instilling some discipline. The family had hoped that young Arturo would follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by becoming a lawyer upon returning to Cuba. Though that idea had already been abandoned by O'Farrill, it became a certainty when he discovered jazz. "In the States, I started listening to big bands on the radio — Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey," O'Farrill recalled in his Milestones Records biography. "And somewhere I got hold of a trumpet and joined the dance band in the school, and that sealed my fate."

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