The words of W.E.B. Du Bois have been front and center at Common Good Collective these days as we prepare for a very exciting project. In this moment of grief and remembering, Dr. Cornel West and Arturo O’Farrill have created a sonic space to reflect on four important question for the liberation-minded.
Four Questions (feat. Dr Cornel West)
Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
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.
This description was originally published by PRX and Crossover Media. Listen to a conversation between Dr. West and Arturo O’Farrill here.