The new album, O’Farrill says, ”serves as a medium for changing the perception of big band music and Afro Latin Jazz by incorporating hip-hop, DJ techniques, and spoken word.” The 75-minute recording ”is a collection of the great new commissions we’ve been working on from our annual Symphony Space season,” he explains. Special guests on the recording include Vijay Iyer, DJ Logic, Edmar Castañeda, Donald Harrison, Pablo Mayor, Miguel Blanco, Antonio Lizana, Jason Lindner, Christopher “Chilo” Cajigas and others, all of whom infuse the recording with the music of New York City, Spain, Colombia, Cuba and New Orleans, all regions that gave birth to the jazz aesthetic.
The Offense of the Drum examines the role of the drum as a vehicle for resistance and liberation, with references to the oppressive policies set forth by New York City police in the ’90s. Regarding the title of the album, Arturo notes, “The drum is an amazing communication tool. It’s a way to connect diverse communities, and is really the heartbeat of our cultures. So, the drum can be seen as offensive to those in power, who try and control our freedom of expression.” A two-part title suite, “The Offense of the Drum: The Oppressor & The Liberator,” is the flagship composition on the album inspired by drum circles in NYC being outlawed, and reflecting the idea that the drum is so politically charged as a means for change.
O’Farrill’s latest recording spotlights percussion from almost every corner of the world, featuring 35 different types of drums: the taiko drum from Japan, djembe from Africa, barriles and bombas from Puerto Rico, tumbadoras from Cuba, bombos from Colombia, cajons, maracas, bongos, shekeres, claves, cowbells, cuicas, tambourines, timbales and turntables. The Offense of the Drum is part of an ongoing commitment by the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, an eighteen-piece big band, to expand the very definition of Latin Jazz, with the drum taking center stage. O’Farrill notes, “Jazz is practiced best in the presence of drums, and enhanced by the presence of drum work. Jazz has really moved away from this, but the drum sets the spirit soaring. In fact, with this album we’ve overcome many constraints of jazz. We are embracing multiple cultures with the use of the drum, while introducing a contemporary exchange of innovative new music.”
”Trying to put into words the multitude of sounds on this album is a difficult task,” says executive producer Kabir Sehgal. “Arturo is many things: maestro, composer, pianist, bandleader, father, son, husband and friend. Most of all, he displays a mighty spirit, enshrined with generosity and love. This album is as much a sacrament of his soul — as it is a meditation on the drumbeats of life.”
The Offense of the Drum is co-produced by O’Farrill, Todd Barkan, Eric Oberstein and Kabir Sehgal, and will be nationally released by Motéma Music in May 2014 in connection with the Apollo Theater performance.
The Apollo Theater Commissions New Work from Arturo O’Farrill:
Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater has enlisted O’Farrill to present newly commissioned work as part of its 80th anniversary program. Coinciding with the 65th anniversary of his father, Afro Latin music pioneer Chico O’Farrill’s (1921-2001) historic ”Afro Cuban Jazz Suite” – a centerpiece of the Afro Cuban Jazz repertoire — Arturo will feature this seminal work along with the world premiere of his “Afro Latin Jazz Suite” at the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival @ the Apollo Theater on Saturday, May 10, 2014. Just as the original score of Chico’s piece included the greatest jazz upstarts of the time, including Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Flip Phillips, Arturo’s band will showcase today’s equivalents such as Guggenheim fellow Rudresh Mahanthappa, NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, saxophone legend Billy Harper, master drummer Lewis Nash, Afro-Peruvian percussion maestro Freddy ”Huevito” Lobatón, and Brazilian percussionist Café. Also part of the Apollo Theater programming is Randy Weston’s “African Sunrise Suite,” which was composed by Weston, and arranged by Melba Liston. The evening serves as the CD release event for Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s latest recording, The Offense of the Drum (Motéma Music: May 2014).