Adam O'Farrill - El Maquech

Label: Biophilia Records, 2018

Personnel - Adam O’Farrill: trumpet; Chad Lewkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone; Walter Stinson: acoustic bass; Zack O’Farrill: drums.


Evincing a precocious musical maturity for his young age (he is 23), Adam O’Farrill became one of the most longed-for trumpeters on the scene. He was absolutely fantastic in Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls and Stephan Crump’s Rhombal, projects that gave him the visibility he needed to stand out. Born in a family of talented musicians (grandson of legendary Afro-Cuban composer Chico O’Farrill and son of pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill), Adam not only gathered all the traditional knowledge but also developed modern skills before forming his own quartet. His debut album, Stranger Days, was released two years ago on the Sunnyside Records to critical acclaim.

Like the work cited above, his latest album, El Maquech, features Chad Lewkowitz-Brown on tenor sax, Walter Stinson on bass, and brother Zack O’Farrill on drums. It exudes a multitude of influences, being a great addition to Biophilia Records' modern catalog.
Siiva Moiita”, a traditional Mexican folk tune, is reimagined with a provocative Latin touch and avant-garde grace, bringing into mind the playfulness of Dave Douglas. Channeling their creative energies and improvisational flair into an off-kilter dialogue, saxophonist and trumpeter differ in approach, with the former behaving more fidgety than the latter. All this occurs with the rhythm section fueling their whims with strenuous, throbbing polyrhythms.

Manifesting groove as an ideology, “Verboten Chant” makes us imagine Don Cherry and Gato Barbieri being subjected to a free-bop re-orientation. The composition adopts a more traditional avant-garde setting when compared to the title cut, in which the band speaks folkloric idioms through a fusion of mariachi music and adventurous jazz. Indeed, this is a curious encounter between profuse Latin melodies and marching rhythms.

Based on Monk’s “Eronel", “Erroneous Love” instantly captured my attention through the busy motif placed at its center together with the leisured yet purely instinctive bass flows, jittery drumming, and flawless interplay suffused with elliptical melodic trajectories. It precedes two compositions where the trumpet claims the spotlight: “Shall We”, a sketchy and rumbling duet with drums, and “Get Thee Behind Me Satan”, a song by Irving Berlin and popularized by Ella Fitzgerald, here transformed into an articulated monologue.

Before using ingenuity in the interpretation of Gabriel Garzon-Montano’s “Pour Maman”, which expands grandiosely and eloquently after a dark, solemn inception marked by deep bowed bass incisions, we have the Frida Khalo-inspired “Henry Ford Hospital”, another hectic odyssey into the ineffable soundworlds of contemporaneity. Expect to find shades of Jewish and Latin music, chirpy trumpet attacks, effusive saxophone counterlines, funk-inflected bass grooves, and ever-shifting gnarling drums.

Relying on the quartet’s collective power as well as on the strong individuality of its members, O’Farrill will consistently reach listeners interested in a fresh, electrifying jazz that pretty much reflects his go-ahead attitude.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
04 - Erroneous Love ► 07 - Henry Ford Hospital ► 08 - Pour Maman

Adam O'Farrill - Stranger Days

Adam O’Farrill: trumpet; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone; Walter Stinson: bass; Zack O’Farrill: drums.

Adam O'Farrill - Stranger Days

Young and extremely talented, Adam O’Farrill is a modern jazz trumpeter from Brooklyn, NY, who comes from a lineage of marvelous musicians. His father, the widely known Cuban pianist, composer, and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill, has all the reasons to be proud of a son who, at the age of 21, has collaborated with Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, Joe Lovano, and more recently Stephan Crump’s Rhombal.
For this recording, Adam had the company of his brother Zack on drums, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on tenor saxophone, and Walter Stinson on bass.

Outlined for quartet, Stranger Days was pretty much influenced by film and theater. Each tune attempts to paint a scene whose variable natures are somehow connected.
Sturdy and concise, the 6/8 “A & R Italian Eatery” relies on precise unisons and simultaneous improvisations, while the rhythm section flows through a fleet-footed bass and elegant brush drumming. 
“The Stranger”, inspired by Albert Camus’ novel, is one of the strongest tunes of the record, starting with Adam’s intro and evolving into a beautifully melancholic march that alternates with passionate swinging passages. The effective improvisations succeed one another with color and feeling.
Highlighting Stinson's basswork and Zack's dry drumming, “Survival Instincts” appears as an awkwardly disconcerting dance that gets epic contours. It opposes to the simplicity of movements revealed in Stinson’s “Why She Loves”. 

“Alligator Got the Blues” is another high point, showcasing a leisurely-paced introductory section before exploring alternative beats with a strong foundation in rock music. The mood is animated and the horns’ feast is no less vibrating.
Melodic repetition seems to have a purpose in “Forget Everything You’ve Learned at School”, contrasting with “Building the Metamorphosen Bridge”, which deals with a curious rhythmic complexity as it privileges interaction. “The Cows and Their Farm Walt”, stepping on a scenic ground, precedes the album's last tune, “Lower Brooklyn Botanical Union”, a contrafact of Billy Strayhorn’s “UMMG” that mixes bop and post-bop elements.

In this wonderful debut as a bandleader, Adam O’Farrill shows off all his qualities both in composition and arrangements. Because modernity in jazz is not always synonym of weird sounds, Stranger Days can be simply described as accessible freshness for our ears.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – A & R Italian Eatery ► 02 – The Stranger ► 05 – Alligator Got the Blues