JazzNYC1Go clubbing with my kids? Really? How could that be a good idea? I thought dinner and music at the famous New York City Birdland was an adult activity. Here’s what I learned one Sunday night in February when Birdland’s big band was playing:

Grammy nominees love their moms and their sons, and aren’t shy about letting it show.

At least that’s true for Arturo O’Farrill who leads the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, a resident band at Birdland.

I caught them there – 44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues — but anywhere around the world is often their headlining spot with big jazz sounds.

JazzNYC4

Saxophone great Charlie Parker called Birdland the “jazz corner of the world.” His nickname was Bird.

“There’s my mom, over there,” O’Farrill said several times from his piano during a dinner show. She looked shy but quite at home in the club near Times Square that opened in 1949.

“This one’s dedicated to my son Zach,” pianist bandleader O’Farrill said later, pointing to an embarrassed looking almost-adult boy.
Later that evening I met O’Farrill’s classical pianist wife, also there, named Alison Deane.

JazzNYC2

The array of percussion instruments for big band jazz sounds is grand to see, and show the kids without touching.

Seven musicians, with an array of instruments including a colorful collection of percussion sound makers. Looked to me like a graphic design in their layout.

Surprised to find myself wishing the little kids in my family had flown in with me on Jet Blue to see those professional tools looking somewhat like toys, and to hear the sounds professional musicians made with each one.

Good grief? Taking the kids clubbing might work. Of course, I was at Birdland Super Bowl night so perhaps the crowd was exceptional.

JazzNYC3

The walls of Birdland are a music museum with colorful paintings by Italian artist Chioccia Tsarkova and photos of jazz greats who played and visited there. This is Charlie Haden.

But, the facts hold steady: the bandleader and his mom are continuing the tradition of their father and husband: the late jazz great Chico O’Farrill who founded the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.

Plus, this bandleader son of Chico devotes untold hours in city schools, offering private classes to kids who could never afford them, and ensemble groups.

That’s a reason for family travel connection too. Traveling families appreciate, and embrace, opportunities to share art, culture, heritage, sense of place.

Top photo: Mom’s first on the left, Lupe O’Farrill. Next bandleader Arturo O’Farrill. Wife Alison Deane, classical pianist, and son Zach, age 20, a drummer and college student.