In the 2002/03 season, Jazz at Lincoln Center inaugurated a new ensemble, the AFRO-LATIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA (ALJO). Led by pianist Arturo O'Farrill - the son of the pioneering composer and bandleader Chico O'Farrill - the ALJO comprises 18 prominent soloists from the Latin jazz scene. This large ensemble plays classics of the Afro-Latin jazz tradition, commissions new works, and leads educational events.
With the founding of this new ensemble, Jazz at Lincoln Center helps to continue the long tradition of artistic collaboration between jazz and Latin musicians. O'Farrill, who learned a great deal from his father and also played and recorded in the Latin-infused bands of Dizzy Gillespie, connects the goals of the ALJO with that of his predecessors, stating: "The idea behind the ALJO is to perform the very best of the compositions in the canon of the Afro-Latin genre. This genre will die if we do not support a new generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists, and there is no other orchestra in the world that has this kind of mission. A large part of our mandate is to provide an instrument for this new generation of composers, arrangers, and instrumentalists to further progress this craft."
Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who approached O'Farrill about creating the ALJO, expressed the viewpoint that the ALJO will help continue the innovations of musicians like Bauza and Machito, stating: "The ALJO is going to fill a great void on the New York cultural scene by playing the classics of the Afro-Latin jazz tradition, commissioning new works and playing dances. This band is firmly connected to the essence of Latin jazz. They have great soloists and first-class ensemble playing."
The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra Summer 2004 tour is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. Brooks Brothers is the official clothier of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.