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Identifier: IJS-0127

Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill music and papers



  • 1930-2018

Scope and Contents

The Arturo "Chico" O’Farrill music and papers contain materials from 1930-2018, with the majority of the materials from 1960-2005. The collection consists of music scores and parts, audio recordings, video recordings, professional and personal papers, and artifacts. The music consists both of jazz arrangements and compositions as well as many commercial jingles. Music is represented as original manuscripts, holographs, scores and parts, lead sheets, sketches, photocopies, and a few pieces by others. His most well-known original compositions include “Three Cuban Dances,” “Afro Cuban Jazz Suite,” and “Carambola.” The audiovisual portion of this collection reflects the same dichotomy seen in the music: original compositions and work for jingles and advertisements. The papers contain business records and receipts, invoices, correspondence, clippings, concert programs, photographs, discography, memorials, obituaries, and awards. There is a small selection of personal papers and artifacts.


36 Cubic Feet (51 boxes)

Conditions Governing Access

Most of the collection is available for research. There is one restricted control folder that contains confidential personal and financial information. Some of the documents have been modified to omit confidential information while retaining the document for research use. The original documents are in this folder. The audiovisual media in the collection are currently open for visual inspection only. Access copies for listening and/or viewing may be created on request, if possible. Contact the Institute for details or to make a request.

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


The collection includes music, clippings, programs, correspondence, photographs, business documents, awards, and artifacts about the life of works of Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill (1921-2001), composer, arranger, conductor, and trumpeter.

Biographical / Historical

Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill was born on October 21, 1921, in Havana, Cuba. He attended the Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Georgia, and graduated in 1940. O’Farrill learned to play the trumpet in the military academy and played in several school orchestras and bands. In 1940, he returned to Havana to start law school. While O’Farrill was in school, he played in local bands and eventually left school after his first year to pursue a career in music. At first, his father was upset by this career change, however, he ended up arranging composition and orchestration lessons for O’Farrill with Cuban composer Félix Guerrero. O’Farrill studied with Guerrero from 1941-1944. From 1945 until he moved to New York, O’Farrill played the trumpet in Havana nightclubs and formed his own band with guitarist Isidro Pérez.

O’Farrill moved to New York City in 1948. He first worked as a ghostwriter for the arranger Gil Fuller and soon became an arranger for Benny Goodman. O’Farrill composed one of Goodman’s most successful songs “Undercurrent Blues.” O’Farrill also arranged for Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Art Farmer, Machito, and Dizzy Gillespie. In the early 1950s, O’Farrill wrote “Carambola” for Dizzy Gillespie. O’Farrill also wrote the charts for Stan Kenton’s Cuban Episode LP, which led Norman Granz to commission O’Farrill to write the Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite for Machito’s orchestra. The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite became one of O’Farrill’s most highly regarded compositions and featured saxophonist Charlie Parker.

In the mid-1950s, O’Farrill returned to Cuba where he wrote for nightclub bands and recording labels. In 1957, O’Farrill moved to Mexico City with his wife, singer Lupe Valero. In 1960, they had a son, Arturo O’Farrill Jr., who is now a GRAMMY-award winning musician. O’Farrill and his family moved back to New York City in 1965 because he wanted to write for the Count Basie Orchestra. He contacted Count Basie’s manager Teddy Reig and was able to collaborate on numerous albums with Count Basie. During this time, O’Farrill also worked as a pop song arranger for CBS television. O’Farrill continued working closely with Dizzy Gillespie and Machito in the 1970s. Gillespie and Machito recorded O’Farrill’s “Three Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods” on their album Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods which was released in 1975. The album also includes O’Farrill’s composition, “Oro, Incienso y Mirra.”

In the late 1970s, O’Farrill started a jingle production company called O’Farill Music LTD with saxophonist Lenny Hambro. O’Farrill’s jingles were in high demand in the advertising world. O’Farrill composed, arranged, produced, and directed jingles and advertisements through the 1990s.

O’Farrill was fastidious about continuing his music studies throughout his whole career. He studied with several well-known composers such as Stefan Wolpe, Bernard Wagenaar, and Rodolfo Halffter. O’Farrill’s son, Arturo O’Farrill, said that his father continued his studies into the last year of his life, going to Riverside Park to study scores including Haydn’s string quartets. Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill transcended genre lines throughout his career, bringing Latin influence to jazz and jingles. O’Farrill passed away in 2001 in New York. His legacy lives on through his recordings and music, which are now available for exploration and research at the Institute of Jazz Studies


The Arturo "Chico" O’Farrill music and papers are arranged in four series and 13 subseries as follows:

1. Music 1.1 Individual arrangements and compositions 1.2 Multi-movement compositions 1.3 Band books and unidentified groupings 1.4 Jingles and recording projects 1.5 Sketches and studies

2. Audio recordings 2.1 Jingles 2.2 Music featuring Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill and others 2.3 Broadcasts and interviews

3. Video recordings 3.1 Jingles 3.2 Videos featuring Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill and others

4. Papers 4.1 Personal papers 4.2 Photos 4.3 Artifacts

Related Materials

The Smithsonian holds the Chico O'Farrill papers, including the score of his Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite.

The Institute of Jazz Studies holds the Count Basie family papers and Bill Hughes collection of Count Basie Orchestra library scores and correspondence.

Processing Information

This collection was processed during the 2019 Jazz Archives Fellowship Program at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Dana Library, Rutgers University – Newark by fellows Kailee Faber, Alexandra Howard, and Jade Kastel, and Institute faculty Adriana Cuervo and Elizabeth Surles.


Kailee Faber, Alexandra Howard, Jade Kastel, Adriana Cuervo, and Elizabeth Surles
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Part of the Institute of Jazz Studies Repository

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