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Jazz 05/04/2021

Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Reaches 1 Million People With 'ALJA Digital Village'

Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Reaches 1 Million People With 'ALJA Digital Village'

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) Multi GRAMMY Award-winning pianist/composer Arturo O'Farrill and nonprofit the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance announces today they have reached more than 1 million people in over 25 countries through their innovative "ALJA Digital Village" programming since its launch one year ago in March 2020.

ALJA immediately responded to the onslaught of the COVID-19 global pandemic with a multi-faceted initiative to raise urgent funds for New York/New Jersey-based jazz musicians (over $100,000 was raised) while instituting a digital platform for ALJA's close network of standout musicians and educators.

The flagship "ALJA Digital Village" program "Virtual Birdland" will celebrate the milestone with the global release of a new album, Virtual Birdland, featuring O'Farrill and his acclaimed 18-person Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra performing with an array of special guests on 10 ambitious compositions recorded across a span of more than 50 online concerts. Each Virtual Birdland session is recorded remotely from the safety of each artists' homes. Jon Pareles (Chief Popular Music Critic) of The New York Times included "Virtual Birdland" in his story, "10 Best Quarantine Concerts Online" (July 2021).

Since March 2020, O'Farrill and ALJA have presented programs with lauded guests such as Dr. Cornel West, Paquito de Rivera, Rudresh Mahathappa, Ana Tijoux, Miguel Zenon, Sean Jones, Mandy Gonzalez, Letieres Leite and Orkestra Rumpilezz, Sofia Rei, and Sahr Ngaujah. Master classes have been led by the likes of John Benitez, Papo Vazquez, Samuel Torres, Yasser Tejeda, and others. "ALJA Digital Village" programs such as Ori-Gen Collective and La Plaza bring award-winning performances and panels to the community (free of charge). ALJA has presented more than 100 dynamic programs over the past 12 months.

"When the pandemic began there was a national and global reckoning," says Arturo O'Farrill. "We were blindsided, and even though the sky seemed like it was falling, we rose up and were determined to play music and heal others. Virtual Birdland is proof that we are interconnected globally even if we are not allowed to leave our homes. The featured musicians sat in their living rooms, bedrooms, or closets and contributed to the lives of thousands of unseen listeners. No immediate feedback, no discernible applause, no fancy concert halls, just the purest form of art there is, service to others."

"It's during challenging times like the ones we are now living in that our community excels in its strength, compassion, and ability to come together for the benefit of all," says Marietta Ulacia (Executive Director, Afro Latin Jazz Alliance). "Reaching nearly 1.5 million people through our digital programming is a milestone we are very proud of and tells us that people need music now more than ever. We look forward to continuing our online initiatives throughout 2021."

Virtual Birdland (ZOHO Music, Release Date: April 9, 2021)

Virtual Birdland opens with "Gulab Jamón," a commissioned work by The Greene Space in New York City. The title is a nod to O'Farrill's two favorite cuisines, Indian and Spanish. The inspiration came from the thought that water exists in many forms, but is essentially the same. "We should see humanity in the same nature," says O'Farrill. "We do not dilute our essence when we embrace others."

"Pouvoir" (meaning "power" in French) is written by Moroccan-born artist Malika Zarra, who is a defender of the sacred Moroccan rhythmic code, Chaabi (a traditional style of North African dance music associated with weddings and festivals.) Rafi Malkiel contributes the composition "Desert," an example of inner joy flowing out. The work reflects the sound of ancient trade routes connecting with a moment in time where we all need healing.

"Nightfall" by Larry Willis is an example of the compositional prowess of this brilliant pianist. The effortlessness of his swing and the efficacy of his tumbao reveal that the roots, path, and future of this music we call jazz are Afro Latino. If artists ran the world, the result would the global connection presented by Kuwait-based artist Ghazi Faisal Al-Mulaifi on his work, "Ana Mashoof." Originally performed in Abu Dhabi during a concert called Cuba Meets Khaleeji: The Middle Eastern Roots of Afro Cuban Jazz, the recorded iteration features the band of Kuwait percussionists Boom Diwan and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Paquito D'Rivera's "Samba for Carmen" was written for the inimitable Carmen McRae and arranged by Maestro Chico O'Farrill. Paquito is renowned as one of the amazing clarinetists of our time. On "Samba for Carmen," he is featured in a Brazilian samba and sounds like a born and bred "carioca."

Letieres Leite's "Alafia" is full blown Candomblé, scored for 5 percussionists, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxes and a tuba. Composed by Rafael Solano and orchestrated by Chico O'Farrill, "En La Oscuridad" is a meditation in elegance and soul. O'Farrill performed the piece under his father's direction and marveled at the playing of tenor saxophone giant, Mario Rivera. Mario's protégé, Ivan Renta, plays with so much reverence for his mentor, yet forged his own voice to remind us that we are part of an ancestral trail.

Don Angel "Papo" Vazquez is affectionately known as "El Almirante" (The Admiral). He is the creator of bomba jazz and amongst the finest trombonists performing today. "Cimarron" was commissioned by the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance and in this setting refers to the untamed runaway. "Cimarron" celebrates musical fearlessness.

Virtual Birdland closes with Tito Puente's iconic "Para Los Rumberos," arranged by José Madera. A rumbero is someone who is not bound by circumstance. When the picture is at its bleakest and the smart thing to do is cave in to fear, he does the opposite and celebrates the challenge with song and dance. Tito took the circumstances of his life and created a universe of joy, which is presented on "Para Los Rumberos."

Beginning on April 14, Arturo O'Farrill will perform a new concert/livestreaming series at the Soapbox Gallery (636 Dean St, Brooklyn, NY). His inaugural performance will be a solo recital and the series will feature O'Farrill in an array of formats including trio, quartet, quintet, and small orchestra. Forthcoming concerts will be listed at soapboxgallery.org.
For more information regarding the Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, please visit arturoofarrill.com and afrolatinjazz.org.






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