The thing about these tunes that makes them special was revealed the day after I first listened to the CD. I certainly enjoyed the music the first time through but what struck me was that throughout the next day I found myself humming several of them as they kept playing in my head. That was only after one listen. Needless to say, I had to hear them when I came home that day and most days since. These are compositions that will stand the test of time, new classics. Like a good restaurant, I crave to hear the compositions again and again.
The group played the first five selections from the CD in order. The opening track, Truth Juice, is a bluesy number with a melody that builds momentum until the soloists take it in different directions. Regarding the name of composition, Jim had this to say, "If you don’t know what that is, see the bartender." The track also happens to be a tribute to the Jazz Messengers. The tenor saxophone work of Jed Levy was noteworthy.
The second selection, Solita, is a very nice ballad that found Jim showing his wares on the muted trumpet. The song moves and grooves and Jim and Jed both took advantage of the solid foundation laid down by Arturo on piano, and Andy Gonzalez and Phoenix Rivera on bass and drums, respectively. Arturo cascaded across the musical terrain and the interplay between him and Phoenix was tight. On this track and several others on the CD, Arturo plays electric piano, Fender Rhodes if I am not mistaken. I was hoping he would play this at the gig. He did not but I was not disappointed. The tracks sounded great on piano as well.
The next composition, Starry Night, is a bossa nova. Jed Levy changed things up by breaking out his flute for this one. Very cerebral and fluid, he moved through the tune like a dancer and Seeley added color to his dance. The band came together to close the tune with a beautiful ending. This was followed by one of my favorite tracks, one that plays over in my head again and again. It is entitled Little General. The group really dug in on this one. Jim Seeley did some great stuff on the trumpet, as did O’Farrill on the piano. Gonzalez moved up and down the bass and everyone did some serious swingin’.
The group closed with a number that would make a great theme for a television show or movie. It has a certain feel to it, like NYC, wind blowin’, walkin’ down the street, takin’ care of business type attitude. Ironically, the number is entitled Forest Path. The band killed this one. Phoenix was on the mark with some great percussion work. Toward the end of the tune the group did something fantastic, stopping and starting on a dime. There were a couple instances where I thought the song was over and they went back into it. The way they ended it was cool. They stopped at an interesting point, a point where I thought they were going to go back into it when suddenly Phoenix simply said, "That’s it."
Pick up the new CD by the Jim Seeley/Arturo O’Farrill Quintet. You certainly will enjoy it, with its catchy compositions, great arrangements, excellent soloists and overall positive vibe. Also, make sure to support these musicians by seeing and hearing them live. You will not regret it. Arturo O’Farrill directs an 18-piece Afro-Cuban Big Band every Sunday night at Birdland in NYC.
Arturo O'Farrill y Riza Negra appear the second Tuesday of every month at THE CORNELIA STREET CAFÉ.