Album Includes O’Farrill Originals and Covers of Gabriel Garzon-Montano, Irving Berlin, and Efrain Salvador
Refining their risk-taking interplay and grappling with Mexican folk sources, the quartet ripens into one of the
most compelling on the scene
Biopholio™ (20-Panel Origami Foldout)
+ Digital Downloads & Streaming Formats
Hailed by The New York Times for “establish[ing] both a firm identity and a willful urge to stretch and adapt,” trumpeter Adam O’Farrill has gained renown as one of the strongest emerging talents in jazz by age 23. He debuted as a leader in 2016 with the captivating Stranger Days, and his quartet has now retained that name, following up with El Maquech. Joined again by Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on tenor saxophone, Walter Stinson on bass and Zack O’Farrill (Adam’s older brother) on drums, the trumpeter displays not only uncommon virtuosity and tonal clarity, but a restless and probing artistic temperament, evident from start to finish.
O’Farrill and the group open with a bold, modernist take on the Mexican folk tune “Siiva Moiiva.” Also of Mexican origin is the title track “El Maquech,” which refers to a beetle that is used to make “living jewelry,” O’Farrill explains: “The beetle is covered in gold and gemstones and sold, and worn traditionally by Yucatecan Mayan women on their nights off.”
The immediate catalyst for this exploration of Mexican musical sources was twofold: Adam’s father, the acclaimed pianist, bandleader and composer Arturo O’Farrill, is partly of Mexican origin, and “naturally I felt a duty to explore my own background,” says the trumpeter. Fortuitously, the Stranger Days quartet was brought on board to play at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx during the highly regarded exhibit “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life,” giving O’Farrill’s current interests organizational support and a larger platform.
O’Farrill first heard “El Maquech” on an album by Orquesta Jaranera Sonora Yucateca, “and there was this shaky bounce in the rhythms and performance,” he recalls, “and a very boisterous but waltz-like feeling to it. It was tricky to arrange at first, because there were several horns and percussion, and we were just a quartet. But I was so enamored by the character of it — it struck me as similar to something I’ve always strived to realize with this band.”
O’Farrill heard “Siiva Moiiva” from a classmate at Manhattan School of Music, while taking drummer John Riley’s rhythmic analysis class and studying recordings of indigenous music from Mexico’s Sonora region. “These were more like melodies than full songs,” O’Farrill says, “repeatedly sung with minimal variation. I wanted to take a similar approach, except the variation is of a chromatic nature.”
Furthering the daunting legacy not only of his father but also his grandfather, legendary Cuban bandleader Chico O’Farrill, Adam has gained recognition for his work with some of the most groundbreaking jazz artists of our time, including Rudresh Mahanthappa (Bird Calls), Stephan Crump (Rhombal) and more. As co-leader of the O’Farrill Brothers Band he documented his bond with drummer Zack O’Farrill on the albums Giant Peach and Sensing Flight. Ever since, his music has grown and taken on new shadings of sophistication and adventurism.
One of O’Farrill’s first breaks was appearing on Imaginary Manifesto by Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, and their tenor-trumpet chemistry has only deepened since, through touring with the Arturo O’Farrill Quintet and other experiences. “Chad and I are very different players,” O’Farrill remarks. “He can be outwardly expressive, and I err on the side of introspection, but we’ve figured out how to make it work without having to really figure out anything!”
The darting counterpoint and pinpoint unisons of the Stranger Days frontline is a distinctive feature for the band, but the churning interplay of the rhythm section is just as key. “When Zack and I met Walter,” O’Farrill remembers of bassist Stinson, “he had access to this shed in Park Slope, and that was usually where we played. There’s one night I recall as one of the most absorbing musical experiences I’ve ever had, just playing crazy grooves and letting loose. The experience of meeting someone for the first time in that way was so enlightening. I also think Walter and Zack bring a lot out in each other — Zack’s playing feels very broad, whereas Walter’s is more pointed in comparison. It creates a balance that is key to the sound of Stranger Days.”
Stinson contributes the off-kilter “Verboten Chant,” a musical reflection on Buddhist monks being forbidden to chant, based loosely on the story of Nichiren Daishonin. O’Farrill’s “Erroneous Love” is based on “Eronel” by Thelonious Monk, composed for the 2017 Winter Jazzfest, which marked Monk’s centennial that year. “Shall We?” is a brief sketch for trumpet and drums, while Irving Berlin’s “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” yields a solo trumpet feature: “I heard the song played in my favorite film, The Master — it was the Ella Fitzgerald version, with amazing string writing from Paul Weston. The narrative placement of the song is perfect, and I knew there was no way I could replicate that, but it stuck with me anyway.”
“Henry Ford Hospital” was also written for the Stranger Days residency at the Bronx Botanical Garden. “It’s inspired by the Frida Kahlo painting of that name,” O’Farrill explains. “It plays with a traditional Yucatecan 6/8 groove, but there was a darkness in the story behind the name, and the colors and objects were fragmented in a way that I wanted to recreate with the form of the tune.”
The closing “Pour Maman,” a luxuriant theme by singer-songwriter Gabriel Garzon-Montano from the 2014 EP Bishounè: Alma Del Huila, came about through the influence of Zack. “My brother has always turned me on to music that I later fell in love with,” Adam notes. “I listened to this so much and I don’t really remember how it clicked in my head to do an arrangement. It’s the one tune in our repertoire that we don’t have sheet music for, which makes it special. It feels more collaborative.” It is, in other words, exactly the right kind of ending, and a portent of further growth to come.
SOURCE: Fully Altered Media