A Night in Tunisia

Arturo O'Farrill

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A Night in Tunisia Review

by Jonathan Widran

The well-versed but underrated Latin jazz pianist tells a story in his liner notes of being discovered by the great bandleader Machito and how this led O'Farrill to play with Dizzy Gillespie once upon a time. Fittingly, he begins this swinging collection of jazz standards with a percussive, heavy-hitting Gillespie tune, "A Night in Tunisia"; the tune wanders off its melody line quite often, as O'Farrill jumps in with dark arpeggios and then more lighthearted improvisational swirling. His arrangements are surprising at times, as he allows inventive bassist George Mraz much of the lead melody line on a brooding take on "The Girl From Ipanema"; the tune begins with a lengthy piano riff section that seems totally improvised. The Jobim catalog is also mined on an eight-minute "Wave," with O'Farrill playing it elegant and straightforward over a gentle bass and the drum brushes of Steve Berrios. Other standards approached and tackled here include "On Green Dolphin Street" (O'Farrill stretches his chops greatly here), Jobim's elegant "Once I Loved," "The Shadow of Your Smile," and "Black Orpheus." O'Farrill has long been known as pianist and music director for his father's big band, Chico O'Farrill and the Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra. Here's hoping this solid label debut catapults him to a deserved solo stardom.

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