The O’Farrill Brothers – Giant Peach – Zoho ZM201101, 55:22 ****:
(Adam O’Farrill – trumpet; Livio Almeida – tenor saxophone; Zaccai Curtis – piano; Michael Sacks – bass; Zack O’Farrill – drums)
Jazz is full of musical families, including the Jones’ brothers (Thad, Hank and Elvin), the Marsalis family, the Brubeck clan, Dewey and Joshua Redman, the Coltranes (John, Alice and their son Ravi) and jazz fans could probably have a trivia contest naming more. Now we can add the three generations of the O’Farrill’s to the list. Drummer Zack and trumpeter Adam O’Farrill – The O’Farrill Brothers – are the grandsons of famed Cuban maestro Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill (one of the pivotal players in the Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz arena who unfortunately passed on a decade ago) and the sons of Arturo O’Farrill, also an important artist in the Afro-Cuban jazz movement.
The O’Farrill Brothers’ auspicious debut, Giant Peach, sounds much more mature than what some might expect from such young lions: when this album was released in January 2011, Adam was still only 16 while Zack was 18. The other band members – tenor saxophonist Livio Almeida, pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist Michael Sacks – are also probably still not old enough to order a beer. Hearing to the 55-minute recording, though, it is clear the teenagers have studied hard, listened with intensity and developed their skills.
It would have been an easy choice to interpret other artists’ material rather than introducing original compositions: it is one thing to play well on a first album and it is another thing to also unveil new pieces. Yet expectations are thrown out: Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” is the only cover. Adam wrote five tracks while Almeida and Sacks penned one each. “Stablemates” proves to be a fine opening selection, since listeners can enjoy the well-known melody as the quintet warms up. Adam comes up first with a balmy-hued trumpet solo which evokes Clifford Brown’s bop-ish timbre. Almeida takes the second solo which showcases his creamy tone and then the horns trade off back and forth before the arrangement fades out.
Almeida’s stirred-up “Face It!” is the longest number and is propelled by Sacks’ avid bass. Sacks is a player to keep an eye on since his bass performances are a revelation throughout this release and he’s liable to become one of the top bassists in the future. Adam is also in peak form during “Face It!” as he tosses off remarkable trumpet riffs. Sacks displays bass chops and composition talent on his constantly shifting contribution, “Side Street,” which indicates a Mingus influence with its blues basis, chromatic changes and a rhythmic strut. Two highlights are Curtis’ piano solo and Sacks’ funky bass break.
The record’s second half is all Adam and reveals he’s got a bright outlook as a composer. “The Composing Process” is obviously formulated to be a quintet workout, with complex lines and dynamic band interchanges. There is an underlying but subtle Latin groove which echoes his father and grandfather’s material and the instruments are all given room to banter, solo and/or team up. More family legacy fills “Happy Hours,” a cheerful track which swings between a bop and a Cuban stimulus with a heady rhythmic discourse accented by pulsating piano, percolating percussion and lively bass. The groove-stacked closer “Afterwalk” steps to a different kind of beat which brings to mind the spirit of Freddie Hubbard’s adventurous, hard bop mannerism.
It’s too early to tell where The O’Farrill Brothers will go from here, but Giant Peach demonstrates this youthful but serious group has potential to become distinctive and may have a very interesting career.
2. Face It!
3. Giant Peach
4. Side Street
5. The Composing Process
6. Happy Hours
7. Crazy Chicken
— Doug Simpson