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Trumpeter Adam O'Farrill Stakes Out His Own Turf On 'El Maquech'


This is FRESH AIR. Twenty-three-year-old trumpeter Adam O'Farrill comes from a distinguished family. He's the grandson of pioneering Afro-Cuban jazz composer Chico O'Farrill and son of pianist and leader of the Afro-Cuban jazz orchestra Arturo O'Farrill. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Adam O'Farrill is staking out his own turf.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Adam O'Farrill's tune "Henry Ford Hospital," after a painting by Frida Kahlo. O'Farrill's quartet "Stranger Days" plays a few tunes that go round and around like folk dances. This young band has telepathic timing, starting with the rapport between Adam and his older brother Zack O'Farrill on drums.


WHITEHEAD: Their partners here come from New York State's Southern Tier, double-jointed bassist Walter Stinson and a bulldog of a tenor saxophonist, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown. The two horns play together a lot, kibitzing behind each other solos. And that's a good thing. The rhythm duo is just as tight and active, moving their beats and phrases around. A ragged edge underscores the band's exuberance. This is from their take on a slowly-building ballad by Brooklyn songster Gabriel Garzon-Montano. Adam O'Farrill likes to mix his music, as befits a New Yorker of Cuban, Mexican, Jewish, African-American, German, Irish heritage. His music affirms that a diverse population feeds a robust culture. One piece - more a a chant than a song - comes from Sonora in northern Mexico. Here trumpet and saxophone catch the expressive precisely imprecise sound of village band harmony. You can almost see the dents in the bells of the horns.


WHITEHEAD: Even as they repeat and repeat that melody, the music evolves. Saxophone slides out from under trumpet, and bass and drums adjusts the underlying beat. The band really get going on the title track from Adam O'Farrill's album "El Maquech." This song, from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, brings out a different trumpet accent.


WHITEHEAD: The funny thing is that Mexican dance wouldn't sound so out of place at a Brooklyn Jewish wedding. The quartet make you hear the connections. There's a lot of very good interplay, soloing and energy on "El Maquech" by Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days. It's on the enviro-friendly label Biophilia. In place of a plastic disc, you get a striking origami-inspired folded cardboard sleeve and a download code. If you burn a CD, you can tuck it inside. The package looks sharp - something out of the ordinary. That makes it a good fit for this quartet and its spirited music.


DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure. He reviewed "El Maquech" by trumpeter Adam O'Farrill's quartet Stranger Days. On tomorrow's show, we'll talk with former White House staffer Ben Rhodes. He was a speechwriter and deputy national security adviser to President Obama. He'll talk about some of his more intense moments with the president and about Russian interference in the 2016 election. His new memoir about his eight years in the White House is called "The World As It Is." Hope you can join us.


DAVIES: Fresh AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer is Roberta Shorrock. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham with additional engineering support from Joyce Lieberman and Julian Hertzfeld. Our associate producer for digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Therese Madden directed today's show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(SOUNDBITE OF URI CAINE'S "CHORO MALUCO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Currently he reviews for The Audio Beat and Point of Departure.