Director, UCLA Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
Arturo O’Farrill, pianist, composer, and educator, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. He received his formal musical education at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. Arturo’s professional career began with the Carla Bley Band and continued as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte.
O’Farrill’s well-reviewed and highly praised “Afro-Latin Jazz Suite” from the album CUBA: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) took the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition and the 2016 Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. His powerful “Three Revolutions” from the album Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo was the 2018 Grammy Award (his sixth) winner for Best Instrumental Composition.
In 2007, O’Farrill founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin music. Learn more about ALJA.
In December 2010 O’Farrill traveled with the original Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Cuba, returning his father’s musicians to his homeland. He continues to travel to Cuba regularly as an informal cultural ambassador, working with Cuban musicians, dancers, and students, bringing local musicians from Cuba to the US and American musicians to Cuba.
During 2016-2018, O’Farrill performed with orchestras and bands including his own Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill Sextet, as well as other orchestras and smaller ensembles in the US, Europe, Russia, Australia, and South America.
An avid supporter of all the arts, O’Farrill has performed with Ballet Hispanico and the Malpaso Dance Company, for whom he has written three ballets. In addition, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company is touring a ballet entitled Open Door, choreographed by Ron Brown to several of O’Farrill’s compositions and recordings. Ron Brown’s own Evidence Dance Company has commissioned O’Farrill to compose New Conversations, which premiered in the summer of 2018 at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts.
O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Philadelphia Music Project, The Apollo Theater, Symphony Space, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Young Peoples Chorus of New York, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Honorary Doctorate in Music, Tufts University, 2018; M.M., Jazz Performance, Queens College, 2006; B.M., Classical Performance, Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, 1994