Past Event

Vol 8: Arturo O’Farrill – Against Elitism: The Functional Value of Jazz and Art

Jazz and Afro-Latin music deserve their hard-earned places among this country’s great art forms. Yet all music and art holds special power and promise to bind communities, support spiritual uplift and advance social and political aims. Elitism of any form can dilute these functions. As composer, pianist and bandleader, and through his Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, Arturo O’Farrill has long sought to, as he says, “build a pueblo” around culture. Along with special guests including tap dancer Ayodele Casel, O’Farrill will perform music that reflects these ideas.

Following the performance, host Larry Blumenfeld will moderate a discussion with O’Farrill, Casel and Archie Rand (painter, muralist and CUNY Presidential Professor of Art, Brooklyn College)about how artists, arts professionals and communities can honor these values.


About the Artist:

Pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. His 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. In 2007, he founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin music. In December, 2010 he 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 U.S. and American musicians to Cuba. His powerful “Three Revolutions” from the album Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo was the 2018 Grammy Award winner for Best Instrumental Composition, his sixth such Grammy honor.

AYODELE CASEL has been named a 2019–2020 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she will be writing her next theatrical work. “A tap dancer of fine-grained musicianship” (The New Yorker) and the 2017 recipient of the “Hoofer Award”. Ayodele recently collaborated with legendary latin jazz composer Arturo O’Farrill premiering a show at The Joyce Theater to sold-out audiences and “making a triumphant debut as a leader there” (The New York Times) in September of 2019. Ayodele premiered her one-woman show While I Have The Floor at the Spoleto Arts Festival with rave reviews. Her work is rooted in the expression of identity, culture, language, and communication. A frequent New York City Center collaborator, she was selected to create an interactive performance engaging NYC communities for their On The Move five borough tour. Ayodele also served as choreographer for Carole King and Maurice Sendak’s musical Really Rosie for its Encores! Off Center debut under the direction of Leigh Silverman. She has performed as a soloist for Jeanine Tesori’s “Jamboree”, a soloist at Fall For Dance, and a soloist for “¡Adelante Cuba!” with Latin Jazz great Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Hailed by the legendary Gregory Hines as “one of the top young tap dancers in the world,” Casel has steadfastly become an internationally sought- after artist and powerful voice for the art form. Read more about Casel’s work at


Jazz and Social Justice: A Salon with Music

This ongoing series was started in 2017, to connect the music we love with the social issues that matter to us all. Each salon blends live performance with conversation between artists, activists, and experts. Curated and hosted by journalist Larry Blumenfeld, whose previous NJMIH programs discussed Afro-Cuban influences and New Orleans traditions.