It has been a decade since a Latin-infused big band shook the New Trier Jazz Festival stage, but this year's headliner is undeniably worth the wait. An extraordinary concert experience awaits when Arturo O'Farrill, triple Grammy Award winner and son of Cuban music legend Chico O'Farrill, brings his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra to the annual festival Feb. 4.
The 34th Annual New Trier Jazz Festival headliner concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Gaffney Auditorium at the Winnetka Campus, 385 Winnetka Ave. Tickets are $30 at www.ntjazz.com, with a limited number available for purchase at the door.
"If there is such a thing as a first family of Afro-Cuban jazz," The New York Times wrote in 2011, "the O'Farrill clan has a right to claim that distinction."
Celebrated pianist, composer and educator Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra is the resident large ensemble of the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, founded by O'Farrill in 2007 and dedicated to preserving and sustaining the cultural treasure that is big band Latin jazz.
"This music hits you in your soul and in your bones," said New Trier Jazz Director Nic Meyer, who has dreamed of bringing O'Farrill and his band to New Trier for years.
The Feb. 4 headline performance will cap a free, daylong, noncompetitive student jazz festival that is one of the nation's largest. There will also be three free public concerts during the day plus other highlights, including: Kings of the Lobby, featuring Chris Madsen at noon; Jazz Directors' Big Band, comprised of the visiting schools' band directors at 2:45 p.m.; and a jam session featuring the day's clinicians at 4 p.m.
For its 34th year, the New Trier Jazz Festival will host more than 40 visiting high school and middle school jazz ensembles from around the country, many of whom return year after year for the unique educational experience the gathering delivers.
Students spend the day performing for world-renowned jazz clinicians, attending workshops and master classes and taking in concerts. All day-time events are free and open to the public.
The evening show will open with a rousing set by New Trier's top jazz group, Jazz Ensemble 1, followed by the 90-minute headlining big-band show that will likely include selections from the 2015 album "Cuba: The Conversation Continues," which won a Grammy and, according to NBC News, represents "an elegant array of music, from Cuban popular styles … to Trinidad and Tobago soca, Peruvian festejo and North African Islamic melodies." Or as O'Farrill calls it, "truly universal music."