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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Arturo O’Farrill & Claudia Acuña

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published October 30, 2008

In These Shoes

In the press materials accompanying reviewers’ copies of In These Shoes, it’s noted that Arturo O’Farrill and Claudia Acuña “decided to do a project for the pure fun of it, not to impress the jazz cognoscenti or ingratiate themselves with jazz purists.” And that’s exactly what they’ve done. O’Farrill is a skilled Latin-based pianist and Acuña a versatile vocalist. Jazz is their forte but here they’ve crafted a decidedly pop-oriented set of tightly arranged mainstream songs. Compared to their more daring individual outings, particularly O’Farrill’s fiery Afro-Cuban releases—his 2006 tribute to his father, trumpeter Chico O’Farrill, was a scorcher—In These Shoes can’t help but seem tame. But on its own merits, the collaboration succeeds nicely: Backed by a top-notch band anchored by a three-piece horn section, the precision drumming of Dafnis Prieto and Adam Rogers’ classy guitar, O’Farill and Acuña find a common place where groove and chops matter less than the sophisticated stylings they bring to their material. Naturally, the Latin numbers—“Cuando Cuando” and Ruben Blades’ “Dime” are highlights—burn hottest, but Acuña also shines on the back-to-back reimaginations of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” and the lovely standard “Willow Weep For Me.” Fun indeed.