NPR on O’Farrill-Valdes Latin Jazz Album “Familia”


NPR’s Felix Contreras interviewed Arturo O’Farrill on his Latin Jazz album with Chucho Valdes titled “Familia“.

In Familia Arturo and Chucho pay homage to their fathers, Chico O’Farrill and Bebo Valdes. Both of these legends were influential in the creation of what we know as Latin Jazz.

NPR’s Alt. Latino and the Interview with Arturo O’Farrill

Chico O'Farrill and Bebo Valdes in Familia jazz album
In the Latin Jazz album “Familia”, Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes colaborate to pay homage to their famous fathers.

Felix Contreras has run the excellent podacast Alt. Latino in NPR for several years. He brought in Arturo O’Farrill to talk about his album “Familia“. As he explains in the program, Arturo not only collaborated with Chucho Valdes on the album, but they both brought some of their siblings to the recording. This made it a 3rd generation of the respective families participating in the homage to the patriarchs.

In the 32-minute program, Felix makes great questions to Arturo about the album, his relation to his father, and how he and Chucho came up with the idea to do this album. The program also includes parts of several songs in the album. Arturo is there to provide the behind the scenes insights on each one.

About Chico O’Farrill

Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill was a born in Havana, Cuba to an Irish father and a German mother. He became a trumpet player in his early career, but was best known as a composer, arranger and bandleader. Chico became interested in Jazz early on, and along with Machito and Mario Buaza, became one of the early creators of Afro-Cuban Jazz.

Chico O'Farrill is honored in "Familia"
Chico O’Farrill was an influential Afro-Cuban Jazz bandleader in the 50’s through 70’s.

A curious fact about Chico O’Farrill is that he was not a fan of improvisation, an important element of both Bebop and Afro-Cuban music. Chico preferred to write down as much of the music that was to be played as possible.

Chico O’Farrill left Cuba shortly after the revolution to established himself in Mexico. He later moved briefly to the US west coast before settling in New York for the remainder of his life. Arturo talks a little about his father’s career. However, it would take a whole blog (if that) to cover Chico’s career. A just made a note to do that!

Chico died in June 2001 at age 79.

About Bebo Valdes

Dionisio Ramon Emilio (Bebo) Valdes was born in Quivican, Cuba, which is near Havana. He worked with the vedette Rita Montaner for many years at Cuba’s Tropicana nightclub, one of the finest at the time.

Bebo Valdes photo
Bebo Valdes was an influential pianist, composer, and bandleader in Cuba for many years before the revolution.

The film “Chico and Rita” is based in part on Bebo’s life. Bebo lead a great orchestra based at the Tropicana. He also played with many influential musicians of time in Cuba. These include Beny More, Pio Leyva, and recorded with Nat “King” Cole.

Bebo Valdes was a music innovator and attributed to planting the seeds of what would become Afro-Cuban jazz. He also invented the Batanga, in response to the popular Mambo.

Bebo Valdes fled Cuba after Castro’s revolution, and settled in Stockholm, where he remarried. There, he continued playing, but was mostly in the anonymity. This was until Paquito D’Rivera re-discovered him in his later years, and it became the beginning of his comeback to the Afro-Cuban music world.

Bebo died in Sweden in 2013 at age 94.

Alt. Latino’s Program on “Familia

I embedded the NPR Alt. Latino program below for your enjoyment. You can also access their programs through the site or subscribe to the Alt. Latino podcast.

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  1. […] moved to Canada and made it his home more than 20 years ago. In the 70s he was chosen to replace Chucho Valdes in the island’s prestigious Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna (modern big band orchestra), as […]

  2. […] site is based on WordPress. I’m glad they recognize Arturo O’Farrill for his contributions to jazz […]

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