Chico O'Farrill
Carambola
Milestone

cd cover The symphonic sweep of Chico O'Farrill's exuberant Afro-Cuban jazz sensibilities suffuses Carambola, further testimony to the Havana-born, New York-seasoned composer's understated mastery of the Latin big-band sound. For five decades O'Farrill has worked with the best in the business: Mario Bauzá, Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, Cándido, Patato, and many more. Two well-known extended works, "Aztec Suite" and "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite," garner fresh hearings. Then there's the title track's mambo-bebop sass, the mellow bolero "Delirio," the straight-ahead clave swing of "Havana Blues," the brassy Broadway cha-cha of "Vanna's Song," the frenetic mambo tribute to New York, "Crazy City (But I Love It)," and the speakeasy foxtrot feel of "Waller Exercise." There's no arguing either with singer Graciela's resonant cameo on "Oye Mi Rumba," the suave jazz trio setting of "Enamorado," or the Gershwin-tinged "Rhapsody for Two Islands" (Cuba and Manhattan, naturally). Says O'Farrill, "I get a kick out of the promiscuity of Cuban and American sounds and I think that maybe what we began doing years ago was destined to be." Sublimely so. - Michael Stone

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