pianist, composer, and educator
Arturo O’Farrill was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. He received his formal musical education at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. His professional career began with the Carla Bley Band and continued as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte.
In 2007, O’Farrill founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin music. In December 2010, he traveled with the original Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Cuba, returning his father’s musicians to his homeland. He continues to travel to Cuba regularly as an informal cultural ambassador, working with Cuban musicians, dancers, and students, and bringing local musicians from Cuba to the U.S. and American musicians to Cuba.
O’Farrill has performed with orchestras and bands including his own Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Arturo O’Farrill Sextet, as well as other orchestras and intimate ensembles in the U.S., Europe, Russia, Australia, and South America. An avid supporter of all the arts, he has performed with Ballet Hispanico and the Malpaso Dance Company, for whom he has written three ballets. In addition, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company toured a ballet entitled “Open Door,” choreographed by Ron Brown to several of O’Farrill’s compositions and recordings. Ron Brown’s Evidence Dance Company has commissioned him to compose New Conversations, which premiered in the summer of 2018 at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA.
O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Philadelphia Music Project, The Apollo Theater, Symphony Space, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Young People’s Chorus of New York, Columbia University, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
O’Farrill’s well-reviewed and highly praised “Afro-Latin Jazz Suite” from the album CUBA: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) took the 2016 GRAMMY Award for Best Instrumental Composition and the 2016 Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. His powerful “Three Revolutions” from the album Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo was the 2018 GRAMMY Award winner for Best Instrumental Composition. His most recent album Four Questions (ZOHO), which won the 2020 GRAMMY Award (his seventh) for Best Latin Jazz Album, is the first to embody all original compositions, including the title track, which features the brilliant orator Dr. Cornel West.