Fast approaching 40, pianist O'Farrill (son of the legendary Latin bandleader/arranger Chico O'Farrill) finally released his debut CD. It's a meaty jazz trio-oriented affair with several Afro-Cuban spins, more like Bill Evans with fire than burn-down-the-house Eddie Palmieri. But since he is no spring chicken or lightweight, O'Farrill's lyricism and good melodic and harmonic common sense are well developed and far from naïve. He's active and interactive, digging in and taking his swings, listening and reacting to the mighty contributions of bassist George Mraz or Andy Gonzalez and the exciting drumming of Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez. As much as he's capable, he's not trying to blow you away with pyrotechnics, but seduce you with advanced, temperature-rising music. The recording starts with a concise, crisp, uptempo version of "Moment's Notice," followed by the Santi Debriano-written Panamanian waltz "Brava." One of the most unusual pieces is the interesting Chinese-Cuban, Rob Mounsey-written "Chinas y Criollas," with Jerry and Andy Gonzalez and including Jerry on congas. Also featured is Carla Bley's lightning-quick "Walking Batterie Woman," which O'Farrill played at a much more deliberate speed when he was with Bley's band in the late '70s and early '80s. Two tracks feature the purposefully flatted, mushy, bluesy trombone of Papo Vazquez on the rolling, kinetic "Ya Yo" and the similarly energized 5/4 to 6/8 original "Arturo's Closet." O'Farrill also explores the patient, trusting romanticism of classic Afro-Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona during the evergreen "Siboney," Mraz's arco intro does the same on "Pure Emotion," and a solo piano version of the standard "Darn That Dream" fully displays O'Farrill's interpretive and improvisational talents to the max. There's also a beautiful Randy Weston piece titled "Little Susan" in 6/8. Aside from the world-class musicianship, O'Farrill's stance is inviting and resourceful as any, and he likes to change up time signatures, which makes the date eminently and repeatedly listenable. Better late than never for O'Farrill, this marvelous recording shows the leader in a most favorable light. A gem in little need of polishing.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos