arturo o'farrill and the afro latin jazz orchestra:

The cornel West Concerto

On Saturday a great philosopher in Cornel West and a great musician in Arturo O’Farrill came together on that stage [Apollo Theatre] to explore how spoken word and Afro-Latin jazz can combine to still the troubled waters of an age where commercialism rules and populism has emerged once again as a respectable part of the political landscape.
— The Root

Commissioned by The Apollo Theater and premiered in May 2016, The Cornel West Concerto pairs text by the virtuosic speaker, scholar and activist, Dr. Cornel West with compositions by Arturo O’Farrill for the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Arturo was inspired by what he called the innate musicality of West’s words when he heard him speak at a rally several years ago. “I heard music, I heard notes, I heard an incredible, profound joy,” he told The Root in an interview he gave along with West. “I wanted to capture some of that because words are important, but music has a way of sometimes transcending words, and so I asked Dr. West if I could write a concerto for him, and he trusted me with this.”

West is a veteran of spoken word, having created several albums in collaboration with artists like Prince and André 3000. But even for West, this was new territory.

“It’s profoundly humbling,” West said about participating in this fusion. “You have to learn, you have to listen, you have to adjust, you have to adapt, you have to be flexible.” And for the two artists, it was about far more than making music. “We are both fundamentally committed to truth,” West continued. “We’ve got to keep track of the ubiquitous mendacity that we see in the culture at every level from the music to the White House, from the religious institutions to the civic ones.”

Great art can come out of pain, and if there is a silver lining to the struggles that people of color in America must endure, it is that artists like West and O’Farrill not only can be inspired by their fight and search for the truth, but can also combine forces and, by doing so, become even more powerful.

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