Arturo O’Farrill: Orchestrating connections through music
The composer, bandleader, and pianist Arturo O'Farrill has his hands full. The seven-time GRAMMY Award-winning jazz musician is a professor of global jazz studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where he is also the associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
O’Farrill, the director of the renowned Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, has just released the album "...dreaming in lions...", his debut on the legendary Blue Note label. He recorded it with a scaled-down version of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, a ten-piece he calls the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. Among the musicians on the album are Arturo's sons, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and drummer Zack O’Farrill. The album contains two multi-movement suites, “Despedida,” a meditation on farewells, and “Dreaming in Lions,” inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novella "The Old Man and the Sea."
On top of all that, O'Farrill is working to open a permanent home for his orchestra in East Harlem, the birthplace of Afro-Cuban jazz in the 1940s. The building will include 300 units of affordable and transitional housing and a performing arts center featuring a concert hall, classrooms, and more.
On Monday, Nov. 22, O'Farrill will participate in the UCLA Arts public discussion series 10 Questions to discuss the question, “How do we sustain?” alongside Cara Horowitz, an environmental lawyer working to address climate change, and Drea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and mental health consultant.
On this episode of the UCLA Arts podcast Works In Progress, O'Farrill talks about the power of music to overcome divisions and distances, the backlash he's experienced for expressing his political views, and how music has allowed him to give back to the community.