(updated) A Latin Jazz Reunion: Arturo O’Farrill and Papo Vasquez

jazz group

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On Thursday April 18th a music class and a total of about 100 students and visitors heard conductor Arturo O’Farrill and musician Papo Vasquez. They were backed up by The Brooklyn College Big Band. CUNY TV was filming it.  Conductor and composer Arturo O’Farrill was trained in piano and composition at the Manhattan School of Music and at Brooklyn College where he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2006. He became a founding director of the Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra in 2003. His debut album Una Noche Inolvidable earned a GRAMMY award nomination in 2006 and in 2008 won for “Best Latin Jazz Album” with Song for Chico.  He currently teaches at BC.  Angel “Papo” Vazquez played with legends such as Tito Puento, Ray Barettto, Willie Colen and Eddie Palmieri. His band the “Afro Puerto Rican Jazz Band” received a GRAMMY nomination in 2008 for Best Latin Jazz Album.

The event started off with the two main performers interviewed by Professor Ray Allen.  O’Farrill said his parents knew the legends and at their parties were Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. He called some of his early music Domingo Sauce. He said to know where you are, your heritage and roots. He said Latin music is at the root of jazz. He said it is music of the universe.  Papo kidded and said he had no idea what he was playing. He did elaborate on technical aspects. Latin Jazz or Afro-Latin Jazz has Afro-Cuban dance rhythms with instrumentation and harmonic structures.  The There were 25 mics and 19 instruments. It was tight set the engineer said.  It was tight set the engineer said.  The audience fully enjoyed it and no one was leaving early. An interview with the singer will be coming.  For concerts check the BC homepage or Music Conservatory.

Singer Shirel Gidekel and the Brooklyn College Big Band.  Jazz student 59Music student Ye Liu  and composer and band leader Arturo O’Farrill at BC.

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As a photographer I was trying to follow the band by seeing where the television cameras were going. It did not work with this because it was improvisation music at times. It was jamming and musicians said it was creative to follow some numbers as they were being improvised on the spot. On the D score Papo said to them to give all they can.

Some numbers he wrote just for the BC Big Band. It was a strong authentic rhyme. It was syncopated and polyrhymic. The harmony had cords clashed because it was jazz. The melodies had some solos and virtuosic.

Shirel Gidekel is a classical singer at BC. She joined 3 semesters ago and came from Israel. She says there is a big classical music department and the jazz workshop has grown. Arturo attracts many. “We are privileged to have him and he is one of the best musicians in the field. He makes BC like Julliard.”  As a pedagogue he teaches jazz theory, big and small band (ensemble). He encourages creativity and fun. Student Liberty Ann composed a piece for the concert.

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