June 24, 2024


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CD review: Arturo O’Farrill – Four Questions 2020: Video, CD cover

All compositions written and arranged by Arturo O’Farrill.

What does integrity do in the face of adversity / oppression? What does honesty do in the face of lies / deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? How does virtue meet brute force? These four questions posed by the great African American civil rights activist and author W. E. B. Du Bois in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk are expounded upon in a speech given by Dr. Cornel West based on his book, Black Prophetic Fire, given October 9, 2014 at Town Hall in Seattle. That speech turned my life around and Dr. West has become a giant figure in my thinking. Without a doubt, he is a controversial figure and many within his own intelligentsia community have attacked him for a variety of reasons. I have learned from firsthand experience that if you are under attack (especially by your own) it could be because standing strong for what you believe will threaten others in their complacency. Regardless of your stance on Dr. West, he holds our feet to the fire and demands that we deal with the social and political horrors of our day. Say what you will, he is a modern-day prophet and prophets throughout the ages are attacked for calling it like it is. Watching Dr. West speak is one of the sublime musical experiences of my life. His oratory has the weight of a John Coltrane solo. His rhythmic delivery has the tumbao of Mongo Santamaria. The humor with which he injects his very serious messages floats like Charlie Parker in flight and, oh, most sacred of all, when he gets deliberate, each word has the authenticity and Afrocentricity of Thelonious Monk’s right hand. Upon seeing him in a debate at Riverside Church in New York, I knew I must write a concerto for his delivery of W. E. B. Du Bois’ questions, and I pursued this goal relentlessly. Dr. West is a giant of a human being and graciously agreed to be the subject of what has become an extensive project.

1. Baby Jack 7:21
2. Jazz Twins 9:31
3. Four Questions 16:13
4. Clump, Unclump 7:16

A Still, Small Voice:
5. Elijah – 1 Kings 19:-13 8:05
6. Amidst The Fire and Whirlwind 1:14
7. Cacophonus 4:25
8. A Still, Small Voice 8:02


Arturo O’Farrill – piano, conductor The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
Dr Cornel West – narrator (# 3)

“The Four Questions”, “Baby Jack”, “Jazz Twins”, and “Clump, Unclump”:
Saxophones: Bobby Porcelli, Ivan Renta (tenor sax solo #2, 3 &4), Jeremy Powell, Larry Bustamante, David DeJesus (alto solo #1)
Trumpets: Bryan Davis, Seneca Black (solo #3 , trumpet solo and voice #4), Adam O’Farrill, John Bailey, David Smith (solo #2)
Trombones and Tuba: Rafi Malkiel, Kajiwara Tokunori, Frank Cohen, Earl McIntyre
Ricardo Rodriguez – bass
Tony Rosa – congas
Carly Maldonado – bongos & percussion
Vince Cherico – drums, solo on #4

“A Still, Small Voice”:
Saxophones: Ivan Renta (soprano sax solo #7), Peter Brainin (tenor sax solo), Bobby Porcelli, David DeJesus, Jason Marshall (baritone sax solo #4)
Trumpets: Seneca Black, Jim Seeley, John Bailey (trumpet solo), Jonathan Powell
Trombones: Tokunori Kajiwara, Rafi Malkiel, Frank Cohen, Earl McIntyre
Gregg August – bass
Vince Cherico – drums
Roland Guerrero – congas
Joe Gonzalez – bongos
Alison Deane – piano

Guests: The “A Still, Small Voice” Singers – Jana Ballard, choral preparation, Aubrey Johnson & Edda Fransdottir – soprano solos, Sharon Moe – French horn, solo #5, DJ Logic – turntables.

Arturo O' Farrill, The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra - Four Questions ...

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