Chico O'Farrill

In Memoriam

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A quickly released but well-chosen compilation rushed out only four months after Chico O'Farrill's death, In Memoriam is actually a nice little memorial to the Cuban-born, New York-based pianist and bandleader. Focusing on his '50s material, the 15 tracks on In Memoriam are almost entirely big-band pieces more in keeping with Duke Ellington than Tito Puente, including sublime versions of standards like "Perfidia" and "Tenderly" alongside O'Farrill originals like the lovely "La Bella Cubana" and the silly but fun novelty "Rock and Roll Cha." Those used to the arguably more "authentic" Afro-Cuban bandleaders who came after O'Farrill might find this stuff a little slight, and there's no denying that there's a definite easy listening vibe to these horn-heavy arrangements, but this is light, swinging, and deceptively rhythmically complex music well worth exploring by big-band and Latin jazz fans alike.

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