Afro Celtic?

Arturo O’Farrill with “Auction Project” at Birdland


Grammy Award winning pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill — leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz” (NY Times) — was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Son of the late, great composer Chico O’Farrill, Arturo was Educated at Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano in Carla Bley’s Big Band from 1979 through 1983 and earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. After leading his late father’s orchestra for many years, Arturo formed his own band, The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra as well as various trios, quintets and sextets in order to explore his and other compositions in the panoply of Afro-Latin music. Arturo brought an ensemble called “Auction Project” to Birdland, July 1-5, 2104. Auction Project was born out of a request for saxophonist David Bixler to perform at a high school fund-raiser auction in 2006. Bixler formed a new group with his Juilliard-trained violinist wife Heather Martin Bixler whose intense interest in Irish fiddling suggested a novel direction.

BL: What is Auction Project?

AO: Auction Project is alto saxophonist David Bixler’s Afro Celtic project which I’ve been involved with from the inception. It also includes Heather Bixler on violin, Vince Cherico on drums, and Carlo De Rosa on bass. This special edition, at Birdland, also includes Victor Prieto on accordion and it’s a real treat to have him. He is quite special as are all these great musicians.

BL: Afro Celtic? Is this the first time you’ve incorporated folk elements outside of Afro Latin cultures?

AO: The repertoire will be drawn from all our collective worlds which include, Spain, Cuba, Scotland, America and so much more. It is what I do best and am happiest doing, drawing on elements from throughout the musical landscape and filtering all of it through Afro Folkloric influences.

BL: What else have you been listening to, reading or watching of late?

AO: I have been listening to Lupe Fiasco, Art Ensemble of Chicago, and George Bizet. I’m reading Junot Diaz and Harper’s Magazine. My recent television addiction is “Orange is the New Black” but I don’t care much for the movies Hollywood is doling out these days.