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Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, picked pianist, composer, and arranger Arturo O’Farrill to lead the center’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and continue the innovations of the Latin jazz masters. Lafayette’s 2005-06 Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence, O’Farrill will lead the orchestra in his second performance of the season at Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts 8 p.m. Thursday, April 6.

Tickets cost $22 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

The public is invited to a free pre-concert discussion by O’Farrill 7 p.m. in the Williams Center. He also will give a lecture-demonstration to preview the concert at noon on Friday, March 31.

In the repertory tradition of Marsalis’ own bands, O’Farrill draws upon the wealth of big band compositions and arrangements from legendary Afro-Cuban composers and arrangers as well as jazz styles from other Caribbean cultures and South America. His dancing piano anchors a killer rhythm section of bassist Ruben Rodriguez and drummer Vince Cherico, as well as two additional percussionists on congas, timbales, and gongs. The horn section features some of the best Latin musicians in the country, including Mario Rivera, Ivan Renta, Pablo Calogero, Luis Bonilla, and Reynaldo Jorge.

The band, according to Marsalis, “has filled a great void on the New York cultural scene by playing the classics of the Afro-Latin tradition from artists like Mario Bauza, Machito, and Chico O’Farrill, commissioning new works, and playing dances. This band is firmly connected with the essence of Latin jazz. They have great soloists and first-class ensemble playing.”

Now in its 20th year, the Alan and Wendy Pesky artist-in-residence program was established to bring to campus renowned musicians who share their performance and teaching skills with students in the classroom and on the concert stage. Last fall, O’Farrill performed with his sextet, Riza Negra, and launched several educational ventures, both in the rehearsal studio and the classroom, which are expanding in scope and impact this semester.

Jorge Torres, associate professor of music, has enlisted O’Farrill as a research partner in documenting unpublished manuscripts by pioneering Latin band leaders such as Beny Moré, Perez Prado, and Bobby Collazo. O’Farrill’s work in contemporary jazz is shaped in many respects by this earlier generation of band leaders, contemporaries of his father, band leader and composer/arranger Chico O’Farrill.

Equally exciting is O’Farrill’s performance-related work with Lafayette student musicians. He has been coaching the small Jazz Combo, work that will expand into a special ensemble that will learn from him the intricate dance rhythms of Latin jazz. TheJazz Ensemble, with director Ken Brader, is spending the spring semester learning O’Farrill’s richly textured arrangements of Latin big band. O’Farrill will join the band’s final rehearsals and perform on piano during its May 1 Williams Center concert.

O’Farrill played piano with Carla Bley Big Band from 1979-83, then developed as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists, including Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Papo Vazquez, The Fort Apache Band, Lester Bowie, and Harry Belafonte. In 1995, he agreed to direct the band that preserved much of his father’s music, Chico O’Farrill’s Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, which has been in residence at New York City’s Birdland for the past few years as well as performing throughout the world. Besides recording Bloodlines, A Night in Tunisia, and Cumana Bop as a leader for Milestone Records, 32 Jazz, and M&I, Arturo has appeared on numerous records, including Habanera with Alberto Shiroma and the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed movie Calle 54.

O’Farrill was guest soloist at three landmark Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts — Afro-Cuban Jazz: Chico O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, November 1995; Con Alma: The Latin Tinge in Big Band Jazz, September 1998; and the 2001 Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala: The Spirit of Tito Puente, November 2001. In March 2002, he was featured artist in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz in the Schools Tour, when he led a Latin jazz quintet for 24 educational performances that reached over 5,000 people throughout New York City metropolitan schools. He again participated in this educational tour from Oct. 21-Nov. 1 2002.

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2005–2006 Performance Series is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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