Arturo O’Farrill, son of the “Afro-Cuban jazz architect,” Chico O’Farrill, will finally keep his father’s wish. Right after the improvement of US-Cuba relations, the remains of the illustrious Cuban trumpet player will rest in peace in his island, just as he wanted.
“He was extremely sad for not having being able to go back to his country. The only thing that made him cry was the memory of Cuba during his childhood,” expressed to EFE Arturo, also pianist and composer.
“My father’s spirit is ill at ease, because he is not resting in his land. I am proud to be able contribute to this process,” he added.
This gesture was made possible thanks to the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, the Office of the Historian of Havana, and the US Embassy in the Island.
Chico always regretted not visiting his country. He did not want “to fail” his audience in Miami. His ashes remain in his dwelling in New York; but next October 29 will be sent to Cuba, where a religious service will be rendered in the Basílica de San Francisco de Asís; and eventually he will be laid to rest in the Colón Necropolis, in Havana.
“I felt my father’s wish and his need to rest in the place where he came from. Our journey is not about politics, ideology, nationalism, or patriotism,” pointed out the also orchestra conductor and Grammy winner this year for the theme “The Afro Latin Jazz Suite.” He said too that by taking his father’s remains to Cuba, he would keep the promise he made him when he was six years old, for the birthday of the musician.
Arturo will travel to Cuba with his family and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, founded and directed by him; and after the religious service, they will pay homage to his father—who died on June 27, 2001—with classical themes and composed by him for the Big Band.
Some of Chico’s themes will be played during the tribute, having Cuban Director Guido López Gavilán as guest, who will conduct the Orquesta de Cámara de La Habana.
Young O’Farrill has widespread his father’s legacy, mainly as founder and artistic director of the Afro-American Jazz Alliance, a non-profit art and education organization whose most visible expression is the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, a worldwide acclaimed band.
His father learned how to play trumpet in an American military academy, went back to Cuba to study law, and returned in a one-way trip to New York in 1947. He started working as an arranger, but nobody would acknowledge his talent until he met the clarinet player and orchestra conductor Benny Goodman, for whom he composed “Undercurrent Blues.” Benny was the one who called him “Chico” for the first time.
No doubt, Arturo father is one of the most influential composers of the Afro-Cuban jazz genre. For many specialists, he was a musician who was able to produce a tighter tone, with subtly-colored scores.