Home » Projects » Four Questions » Album

Track Listing:

Baby Jack
Jazz Twins
Four Questions: Featuring Dr. Cornel West
Clump, Unclump
Elijah - 1 Kings
Amidst The Fire and Whirlwind
A Still, Small Voice

Arturo O'Farrill :

Four Questions

The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Announces the National Release of GRAMMY-Winning Arturo O'Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra's Latest Album - Four Questions on ZOHO Records

Featuring Dr. Cornel West - On The Title Composition, "Four Questions"

GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist/composer Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra release their latest recording, Four Questions (ZOHO Music), featuring special guest Dr. Cornel West on the title composition "Four Questions" on Friday, April 10, 2020. Four Questions marks O'Farrill's first album in his famed recording catalog to exclusively include all originally written compositions. Weaving together empowering messages for the times, Four Questions portrays the pioneering pianist as outspoken as ever on the obligation of artists to speak truth to the great injustices occurring across the globe.  

Premiered live-in-concert at The Apollo Theater on May 21, 2016, "Four Questions" will now be available for worldwide audiences to hear on Four Questions with the electrifying Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra joined by Dr. Cornel West as a guest soloist, conductor, and percussionist. O'Farrill's commissioned piece for the Apollo Theater as part of his MacDowell residency took the shape of Dr. Cornel West's speech at Town Hall (Seattle, WA: October 9, 2014) based on his book, Black Prophetic Fire. Four questions posed by the great African American civil rights activist and author W. E. B. Du Bois in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk, are expounded upon by West while O'Farrill and his 18-piece orchestra usher in a jolt of inspiring fury. 

The four essential themes from W.E.B. Du Bois' seminal publication, include: What does integrity do in the face of adversity / oppression? What does honesty do in the face of lies / deception? What does decency do in the face of insult? How does virtue meet brute force?

"‘Four Questions' is about bringing attention through Dr. West's brilliance and vision, coupled with the subversive power of the Afro Latin Big Band, to the influence of revolutionary thought that demands we take stock of where we are as a country and demand better," says Arturo O'Farrill, pianist/composer and Artistic Director of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance. "We must pay tribute to the jazz greats like Coltrane, Holiday, Mingus, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, and carry on their legacy of bringing attention to the real issues of modern society through jazz music."

A modern-day prophet, Dr. Cornel West joins the riveting Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to hold our feet to the fire and demand that we deal with the social and political horrors of our day. Standing strong for what you believe in often threatens others in their complacency. To witness Dr. Cornel West in action is an awe-inspiring experience. He is widely renowned as a speaker of substantive truth within the intelligentsia community.  

O'Farrill notes, "Watching Dr. West speak is one of the sublime musical moments of my life. His oratory has the weight of a John Coltrane solo. His rhythmic delivery has the tumbao of Mongo Santamaría. The humor with which he injects his very serious messages floats like Charlie Parker in flight and, oh, most sacred of all, when he gets deliberate, each word has the authenticity and Afrocentricity of Thelonious Monk's right hand."

More than ever the brilliance of Du Bois' introspections, West's interpretations and the pure jazz fire with which they are delivered are a salve for those who are hurt by the daily assault of those who use ideology to promote hatred and violence. Jazz fans and music lovers alike are in for a special treat upon hitting play on their audio devices when "Four Questions" is in the queue.

Four Questions further unfolds with compositions such as "Baby Jack," a piece commissioned by O'Farrill's dear friend, Mary McCormick. "Baby Jack" accesses emotions fearlessly, just as a baby oscillates between laughter radiating with the brilliance of pure joy to howling with pain. "The Jazz Twins" is dedicated to Arnold and Donald Stanley from Los Angeles; two close knit staples of the jazz community. The Stanley's have become close acquaintances of O'Farrill, who have traveled with him to Cuba. It's the type of brotherhood that can weather any storm, and "The Jazz Twins" captures such a spirit. 

As part of O'Farrill's MacDowell residency at the Apollo Theater, he also composed "Clump/Unclump." The piece encapsulates the relentless law of gathering and scattering, the coming together and the falling asunder. While writing the piece, O'Farrill faced his oldest child leaving the parental home and his only remaining parent becoming terminally ill. "Clump/Unclump" strikes a course where a rock solid life is pulled apart with centrifugal force. To O'Farrill, it served as a micro-lesson constantly revealed on a macro scale. An anthem for the period in which we live, the overwhelming hatred and mediocrity in our national conversation too shall pass.

"A Still, Small, Voice" is in response to the great financial crisis of 2008 when select financial institutions took part in unscrupulous practices that caused serious harm to middle class Americans and people around the world. It reflects a common thread between all religions and philosophies, and borrows words from Hindu, Christian, and Shinto texts. "A Still, Small, Voice" speaks to an inner reminder of the eternal truth that if one suffers, we all suffer. The composition features an inimitable choir assembled by choral conductor Jana Ballard. In addition to the title movement, "A Still, Small, Voice" contains three additional movements entitled, "Elijah – 1 Kings 19:13," "Amidst The Fire and Whirlwind," and "Cacophonus."

"Four Questions is the sixth production on which Arturo and I collaborated, over almost a decade," says Kabir Sehgal (Executive Producer, Four Questions). "That this project is grounded in the philosophy of one great American writer, W.E.B. Du Bois, it's fitting to cite another. The influential African American jazz critic and novelist Albert Murray believed that cultural diversity was a hallmark to America's strength, and I know that Arturo believes this, too. Moreover, like Murray, Arturo believes that the powers that be should be called out for intolerance and bigotry. It's been an honor to produce this project with Doug Davis and for Arturo, who I consider a dear mentor and friend. When he embarks upon a project, he bares his heart and soul. The world is a better place for Arturo sharing his profound artistry with all of us."