NEC Jazz Orchestra: Musical Polyglots (Digital Broadcast)

In this streamed, edited concert—the full version of which took place in Jordan Hall for in-person audiences on Thursday, October 21—the NEC Jazz Orchestra and NEC Intercultural Institute presented performances including Chico O'Farrill's legendary Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, guest Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Suite, and a work by NEC guest artist Mehmet Ali SanlıkolSanlıkol shares:

“Musical Polyglots” presents “world music” influences and multi-musical composers/performers in jazz. As a composer/performer who has studied and internalized both Western classical music and jazz as well as traditional Turkish musics for several decades, I wanted the concert to present four “multi-musical” composers and include three of us performing with the orchestra.

This is a topic I am passionate about. While I care very much for being open to all kinds of voices and influences to be present within jazz, I am also not naive about the centuries-old notions of orientalism and exoticism. As a result, it is important to show that there are artists that take both of these angles to the heart in their music and go beyond the more commercial (and touristic) reductions of “world musics” presented within jazz.


  • NEC Jazz Orchestra
  1. Arturo O'Farrill | Afro-Latin Jazz Suite

    Mother Africa
    All of the Americas
    What now?

    • Arturo O'Farrill, piano
  2. Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol | Abraham

    The Fire
    The Sacrifice
    The Call

  3. Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill | Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite

  4. About the composers in this edited broadcast

    Arturo O’Farrill, pianist, composer, and educator, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Arturo’s 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 Arturo 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 US and American musicians to Cuba.
            Arturo has performed with orchestras and bands including his own Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill Sextet, as well as other Orchestras and intimate ensembles in the US, Europe, Russia, Australia, and South America.

            An avid supporter of all the Arts, Arturo has performed with Ballet Hispanico and the Malpaso Dance Company, for whom he has written three ballets. In addition, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company is touring a ballet entitled “Open Door,” choreographed by Ron Brown to several of Arturo’s compositions and recordings. Ron Brown’s own Evidence Dance Company has commissioned Arturo to compose New Conversations, which premiered in the summer of 2018 at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA.
            Arturo has received commissions from Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Philadelphia Music Project, The Apollo Theater, Symphony Space, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Young Peoples Chorus of New York, Columbia University and the New York State Council on the Arts.
            Arturo’s well-reviewed and highly praised Afro-Latin Jazz Suite from the album CUBA: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) took the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition and the 2016 Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz AlbumHis powerful Three Revolutions from the album Familia-Tribute to Chico and Bebo was the 2018 Grammy Award (his sixth) winner for Best Instrumental Composition. Arturo’s current album Four Questions (ZOHO) is the first to embody all original compositions, including the title track, which features the brilliant orator Dr. Cornel West. This album has won a Grammy for 2021.
            In 2019, Arturo was Artist in Residence for The Greene Space in New York City, for which he created a four-concert series including a newly commissioned composition. The series title was “Radical Acts and Musical Deviancy.”  In 2020 Arturo’s weekly concerts with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, dubbed “Virtual Birdland,” top the list of 10 Best Quarantine Concerts in the New York Times.
            Arturo is Professor of Global Jazz Studies and Assistant Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has been honored as a Steinway Artist for many years, and is now a Blue Note Records Recording Artist.

    Grammy nominated composer and CMES Harvard University fellow (2013-15) Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol made his Carnegie Hall debut in April 2016 premiering his commissioned piece Harabat/The Intoxicated with the American Composers Orchestra. Other recent works have been heard at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall, Jordan Hall and on A Far Cry string orchestra's recording Dreams and Prayers. He hails from Cyprus and Turkey, and is a multi-instrumentalist/vocalist, an ethnomusicologist as well as a full-time faculty member at New England Conservatory.
            A musical polymath, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol has composed for, performed, and toured with international stars and ensembles such as Dave Liebman, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Cobham, Anat Cohen, Antonio Sanchez, Tiger Okoshi, Gil Goldstein, Esperanza Spalding, The Boston Camerata, The Boston Cello Quartet, A Far Cry string orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Okay Temiz and Erkan OğurSanlıkol was a recipient of The Aaron Copland Fund for Music Program Grant twice, in 2016 and 2020, with his unique jazz orchestra/combo, Whatsnext? and has been praised by critics all over the world for his unique, pluralist, multicultural and energetic musical voice. The Boston Globe noted that Sanlıkol’s “music is colorful, fanciful, full of rhythmic life, and full of feeling. The multiculturalism is not touristy, but rather sophisticated, informed, internalized; Sanlıkol is a citizen of the world”, “...and he (Sanlıkol) is another who could play decisive role in music’s future in the world.”
            His “coffeehouse opera”, entitled Othello in the Seraglio: The Tragedy of Sümbül The Black Eunuch, which has been the recipient of the Paul R. Judy Center grant at Eastman School of Music in 2015, bridges the musical cultures of opera house and coffeehouse, Baroque Italy and Ottoman Turkey. With music from 16th and 17th century European and Turkish sources, arranged, adapted and woven together with original music by Sanlıkol, this unique opera has been performed 20 times within three years since its premiere on European period instruments and traditional Turkish instruments by an ensemble of specialists in those fields. On the other hand, Sanlıkol’s unique blend of jazz composition and Turkish music has been praised by the Boston Globe as “a true fusion of jazz and folkloric Turkish language and colors.” Sanlıkol pairs Turkish instruments such as zurna (double reed wind), ney (end-blown flute), kös (large kettledrums) and nekkare (small kettledrums) with the jazz orchestra/combo to perform his Turkish music-influenced compositions, in which Turkish makam (mode) and usul (rhythmic cycles) are intertwined with modern jazz as well as specifically film noir influenced music.
            Sanlıkol studied western classical piano with his mother Fethiye Sanlıkol and started giving piano recitals as early as age five. Later on he studied with the acclaimed Turkish composer/ pianist Aydın Esen and won a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee Sanlıkol studied jazz composition with accomplished composers such as Herb Pomeroy and Ken Pullig. After studying with composers George Russell, Bob Brookmeyer and Lee Hyla, Sanlıkol completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Composition at NEC in 2004. During his doctoral studies Sanlıkol also focused on Turkish music and ethnomusicology as a result of which he helped found the organization DÜNYA, a musicians’ collective based in Boston dedicated to contemporary presentations of Turkish traditions, alone and in interaction with other world traditions, through musical performance, publication, and educational activities. Since its founding Sanlıkol has produced, performed and delivered talks at over two hundred DÜNYA events. DÜNYA has also released 11 CDs, a single, a concert DVD, a documentary and a feature film with Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol both as director/ performer and composer. The unique nature and the success of DÜNYA resulted in Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol going on the air numerous times on NPR and PRI.
            Sanlıkol actively delivers papers and talks at academic conferences such as International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music and Society for Ethnomusicology. Sanlıkol’s book, The Musician Mehters, about the organization and the music of the Ottoman Janissary Bands, was published in 2011 in English by The ISIS press and in Turkish by Yapı Kredi Yayınları. Currently, he is the director of New England Conservatory’s Intercultural Institute.

    Chico O'Farrill was born in Havana, Cuba. He was raised to follow family tradition and enter into law practice, though before he could, he became enamored with jazz music and pursued that instead. He discovered big band jazz when he attended military boarding school in Florida, where he first learned to play the trumpet, and after returning to Havana began studying classical music under Felix Guerrero at the Havana Conservatory and playing in local nightclubs alongside figures like Isidro Perez and Armando Romeu. In 1948, he relocated to New York City, where he continued his classical music studies under Stefan Wolpe, Bernard Wagenaar, and others at the Juilliard School, and began to pursue the jazz scene in his free time.
            Soon after moving to New York City, he began working as an arranger for Benny Goodman, and wrote Undercurrent Blues. It was at this point his nickname was born: Goodman had trouble pronouncing his name, and began referring to him as "Chico" instead. During this period, he also worked as an arranger with Stan Kenton (Cuban Episode), Count Basie, Art Farmer, and Machito (the Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite featuring Charlie Parker, recorded on December 21, 1950), and contributed to several Afro-Cuban jazz works by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie (Manteca Theme, recorded on May 24, 1954). During this time he also started his own band, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, which toured the country, recorded, and played weekly gigs at the Birdland jazz club. In 1957, he moved to Mexico and lived with his wife, singer Lupe Valero, until 1965; while there he wrote a suite for Art Farmer in 1959 and performed concerts in Mexico City. In 1965, he returned to New York City, where he worked as an arranger and music director for CBS on their TV program "The CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People." He also wrote arrangements of pop songs for Count Basie in 1965 and 1966, and recorded Spanish Rice, an album of his Afro-Cuban jazz compositions, with Clark Terry in 1966.
            O'Farrill made a comeback as a band leader in the jazz world with the 1995 release of the Grammy-nominated album Pure Emotion, which marked the first time he'd recorded as a leader in nearly 30 years—though he did lead a 17-piece Afro-Cuban orchestra at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City a year before and arranged several songs for David Bowie's jazz-inspired 1993 album Black Tie White Noise, predicting his return. He was also commissioned to write a trumpet concerto for Wynton Marsalis at this time. From 1995 through his retirement in March 2001, shortly before his death from complications from pneumonia, his band, which included his son Arturo O'Farrill as pianist and, later, de facto leader, recorded two more albums (The Heart of a Legend in 1999 and Carambola in 2000) for Milestone Records, and returned to playing weekly at Birdland. After his retirement, his son continued to lead the band, releasing albums such as Noche Involvidable in 2005 and Song for Chico in 2008.


    NEC Jazz Orchestra

    Mike Cameron, alto saxophone, flute
    Ben Mizach, alto saxophone, flute

    Nick Ryder, tenor saxophone, clarinet
    Shoya Renwick, tenor saxophone, clarinet
    Nick Biagini, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet

    Miles Keingstein
    Michael Brehm

    Zoe Murphy
    Isaac Dubow


    Joseph Dies
    Sam Margolis
    Cooper Malanowski
    Weza Jamison-Neto

    Rowan Barcham, piano
    Talia Rubinstein, guitar
    Benjamin Friedland, double bass
    Nadav Friedman, drums

    Annalise Stalls, alto saxophone, flute
    Kabir Adhiya-Kumar, bongos
    Maude Bastien-Desilets, maracas, bongos
    Jacob Britton, congas
    Carlos Pereira, African log drum, jawbone, timbales
    Dominic Vance, cajon
    Alex Yoo, congas

A jazz saxophonist takes a solo with the NEC Jazz Orchestra.
NEC: Jordan Hall
Together with NEC's Intercultural Institute, the NEC Jazz Orchestra will present a performance of Chico O'Farrill's legendary Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, guest Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Suite, and works by guest artist Somi Kakoma and NEC's Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol.
A detail of NEC's Jordan Hall
NEC: Burnes Hall
This master class with Arturo O'Farrill is presented by the NEC Jazz Department and is in-person for students only.
New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall building
NEC: Williams Hall

Moderated by Ken Schaphorst, this panel includes Arturo O'Farrill, Somi Kakoma, and Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, composers whose work employs multiple musical languages. Free and open to the public with proof...