Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Conclude Birdland Residency After 15 Years
Contact: Richard Hillman
For The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, PLEASE
CHICO O’FARRILL AFRO CUBAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA
TO CONCLUDE BIRDLAND RESIDENCY AFTER 15 YEARS
FINAL THREE SUNDAY NIGHT PERFORMANCES
JUNE 12, 19, 26
TWO SETS AT 9 & 11PM
New York (6/7/11) — Birdland (315 West 44th Street – between 8th & 9th Avenues) announced today in association with The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance that the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra will conclude its residency at the famed Manhattan jazz club on Sunday, June 26, 2011, where it has performed every Sunday evening for over 15 years. Legendary Cuban composer and arranger Chico O’Farrill founded the orchestra in 1995, and his son, pianist Arturo O’Farrill, has directed the ensemble since his father’s passing in 2001.
The final three performances of the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra will be Sundays June 12, 19 and 26 with two (2) sets each night at 9 & 11pm. For reservations, please visit www.birdlandjazz.com or call the club at (212) 581-3080.
Arturo O’Farrill issued the following statement:
“Chico O’Farrill’s music is a national treasure. The Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra is among the hardest swinging ensembles in the world. Our residency at Birdland has been a gift from on high. However, maintaining two big bands, a non-profit, and my small groups, as well as being a teacher, father, husband, and son, has been difficult to balance. In an effort to streamline my life and put more attention on composing and performing, I’ve decided to end the residency of the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra at the end of June. I intend to return to Birdland in September with a new residency of some sort, but the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra will finish its extraordinary run at Birdland. I wish to thank first and foremost the musicians, Gianni Valenti and our Birdland family, and most of all, our fans and friends throughout the planet. We love you all!”
Birdland owner Gianni Valenti remarked, “We’ve had 15 years of Sundays with the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, and I’ve been here for just about every one of them. It’s sad to see it come to an end and we’re going to miss everyone dearly, but it’s been a wonderful relationship for Birdland and a privilege to work with Chico, Arturo, and the orchestra.”
Chico O’Farrill is considered one of the master architects of Afro Cuban jazz, penning the seminal Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite (originally recorded by Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips, and Buddy Rich). Adapting Cuban music to the modern jazz big band, O’Farrill wrote and arranged works for legends such as Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, and countless others.
Showcasing “the most seamless blend of clave rhythm and bebop harmony anywhere” (Time Out), the orchestra has performed the full repertoire of Chico O’Farrill for thousands at its weekly residency and through national and international tours. The orchestra recorded three albums—Pure Emotion (Grammy nomination), The Heart of a Legend (Latin Grammy nomination), and Carambola (Latin Grammy nomination).
This past December the orchestra traveled to Cuba to headline the Havana International Plaza Jazz Festival. It had been Arturo O’Farrill’s desire to return his father’s music, played by his musicians, to the island, as his father was unable to return to the island after departing for the final time in 1960. According to the younger O’Farrill, this trip completed an “artistic, familial, and spiritual journey,” and serves as the subject of the forthcoming documentary, Oye Cuba! A Journey Home, directed by Diane Sylvester.
Ever since most of Chicago’s top musicians moved to New York in the mid-to-late 1920s, New York City has been the Jazz Mecca. Nearly every major jazz style of the past seventy years has been initiated in the Big Apple. It was Charlie Parker, familiarly known to his fans and fellow musicians as “Bird,” a contraction of Yardbird, his formal nickname, who was the dynamic creative personality and genius of the alto saxophone who served as the inspiration for Birdland.
When the original Birdland opened sixty years ago in December, 1949, Charlie Parker was the headliner and the club was located on Broadway, a block west of the 52nd Street scene, which was a hotbed of jazz in the 1930s and 40s. Miraculously, just as the scene on 52nd Street caved in, Birdland was born and quickly came to prominence. For the next fifteen years, the club’s survival formula was built upon memorable double and triple bills, commencing at 9 p.m. and sometimes lasting ’til dawn.
In addition to Bird, many jazz legends were regulars at the club. Count Basie and his smokin’ big band made Birdland their New York headquarters, eventually recording George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” live at the club. John Coltrane’s classic Quartet regularly appeared at the club in the early 1960s, recording “Live at Birdland.” And the famous DJ, Symphony Sid Torin made a name for himself broadcasting live from the club to radio listeners up and down the eastern seaboard.
In its first five years of existence, 1,400,000 paid the $1.50 admission to make their way either right to the cabaret section or left to the intense listening bullpen to hear Birdland’s attractions and sample its atmosphere. Given the artists on the bill, that comes as no surprise. Birdland’s booking history reads like a who’s who of jazz: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Erroll Garner, and many, many others. Considering the excitement that Birdland generated on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that the club attracted its share of celebrities. Regulars to the nightly festivities included such household names as Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Joe Louis, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Sugar Ray Robinson. As Allan Morrison, the long-time editor of Ebony once put it, “Birdland was both a cultural vantage point and a barometer of trends where all the big names in jazz performed.” But as a new popular music, Rock & Roll emerged, Birdland’s fortunes declined in the 60′s and its doors were closed on Broadway and 52nd in 1965. After many 5 am nights, the club needed to take a nap.
Birdland awoke uptown in 1986 at 2745 Broadway, on the corner 105th Street where it was well renowned for its great acoustics and unique setup. In ten years, more than 2,000 emerging artists performed at the club. On many occasions, artists who performed at the original club on 52nd street graced the stage of the second version of Birdland as well. Still there was something missing. “After ten successful years uptown, I felt the mystique of Birdland returning to midtown – it would be the natural continuation of the legendary jazz corner of the world,” said Birdland owner John Valenti.
Now, half a century later, the Birdland banner has been reborn in midtown and called, “close to perfection for serious fans and musicians,” by The New York Times. After a decade of neighborhood success on the Upper West Side, John decided to move the club back to Midtown. The new Birdland offers top-flight jazz in a world class setting, good sight lines and acoustics, elbow room, and an award-winning menu featuring American cuisine with a Cajun flair.
Since the reemergence of the club, midtown Manhattan has been treated to some of the best jazz on the planet, including memorable sets by such musicians as Oscar Peterson, Pat Metheny, Diana Krall, Roy Haynes, Michel Legrand, Dave Brubeck, Pat Martino, Tony Williams, Hank Jones, Michel Petrucciani, Maynard Ferguson, Freddie Hubbard, Marian McPartland, John Pizzarelli, Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Jon Hendricks, George Shearing, James Moody, Yellowjackets, John Scofield, Phoebe Snow, Dave Holland, and Tito Puente, as well as the big bands of Chico O’Farrill, Duke Ellington, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Maria Schneider. In addition, Birdland is home to such popular musical events as the Umbria Jazz Festival in NYC and the Annual Django Reinhardt NY Festival.
The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, a non-profit organization founded by Arturo O’Farrill in 2007 dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of big band Latin jazz, is committed to honoring the legacy of Chico O’Farrill. The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra continues to perform and record works by Chico O’Farrill. The organization also maintains a library of Chico O’Farrill’s scores, administers a scholarship program in his name for promising young musicians, and this December will pilot the Chico O’Farrill School of Jazz in Havana, an ongoing Cuban-American music educational exchange that includes a weeklong intensive co-taught by a faculty of Cuban and American musicians.