Adam O’Farrill ‘Stranger Days’ (Sunnyside) 3/5

adam-o-farrillA few factoids to kick things off about Adam O’Farrill: he comes from a musical family (some may even start to call it a dynasty. He is the son of jazz musician Arturo O’Farrill and grandson of latin jazz musician, arranger & bandleader Chico O’Farrill).
In 2014, O’Farrill entered the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition. The judges were Ambrose Akinmusire, Randy Brecker, Roy Hargrove, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Owens, and Arturo Sandoval. He won 3rd place amongst very stiff competition.
‘Stranger Days’ is his debut solo album – out on the ever brilliant Sunnyside Records.
Adam’s brother Zack plays drums and plays on the album.
He was born 10 whole years after I left senior school!
(That last factoid will not in any way bias my opinion of this release whatsoever – I promise…)
If we have to put an age on this young man then he is 22 (as at the time of writing this) and what a talent he is.
The quartet is completed with the addition of Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, saxophone and Walter Stinson, bass.
In a nutshell, what you have is a modern jazz album with a salute to Clifford Brown and the heady days of Blue Note with some leanings towards the avant-garde.

First up is ‘A & R Italian Eatery’ – a gently pulsing piece with sax and trumpet making a nice rhythmic voice together. A very pleasant opener.
After a solo trumpet introduction on ‘The Stranger’, the rest of the group first slowly begins to stir with military-style drum pattern which then opens out briefly into a cool bop section before going back to that drum pattern while O’Farrill provides a very competent solo followed very ably by Lefkowitz-Brown in blistering fashion and then a solo by Walter Stinson on bass. You can tell that this is probably a signature piece when this group play live.

‘Survival Instincts’ features some nice sync playing from trumpet and sax with bass and drums in fine fiery form.

Up next is ‘Why She Loves’ which is a subtle piece with a meaty and dynamic solo from O’Farrill which seems to move this subtle piece to another more heady place. Things are never what they seem on this album.

‘Alligator got the Blues’ starts off quite bluesy but then moves to a more up-tempo affair with another strong saxophone solo but before ending up… back in the blues.

If we skip to the curiously titled ‘The Cows And Their Farmer Walt’ – we have a song that shows that jazz doesn’t always have to be so serious. The band start nice and easy but then change to what I can only describe as ‘caper’ music (the kind of thing you might hear at a circus with clowns running around the arena). This is augmented by a nice bass solo to straighten things out before trumpet and then saxophone make their respective marks. This one will, if nothing else, raise a smile.
Look, this album, whilst very competent, will not set the world on fire but it shows that there is still some formidable talent out there that is being honed and nurtured. The song writing on this album is extremely good and the playing is also of a very high quality. Well worth a listen if you take your jazz seriously.

Sammy Goulbourne