Modern Art is the prelude recording for Art Farmer prior to his partnership with Benny Golson in the Jazztet, and also foreshadows the classy, tasteful inventiveness that group brought to the modern jazz world two years after this 1958 session. Pianist Bill Evans is in here, just before his pivotal work with Miles Davis on the classic album Kind of Blue, and was the table setter for McCoy Tyner's membership in the Jazztet. Brother Addison Farmer on bass and the great drummer Dave Bailey round out this sterling quintet that specializes in playing music with a subtle approach, which is neither tame nor conservatively lazy. Included on this date is the great Junior Mance tune "Jubilation," perfectly understated in a light gospel, soul-jazz, tuneful melody with both horns wonderfully matched up in balanced unison, side by side.
This lesser-known set, released by several Japanese labels including a 1991 CD issue by Denon, features flugelhornist Art Farmer with pianist Masahiko Satoh (doubling on electric piano), bassist Ron Carter, drummer Jack DeJohnette and a 14-piece string section arranged and conducted by Satoh. Despite its initial release in Japan, the music was actually recorded in New York City. Farmer is in excellent form on the seven modern jazz originals, most of which are given fresh treatments. The arrangements are fine, and Farmer is up to the task of carrying the main load on such songs as "Nica's Dream," "Blue In Green," "Maiden Voyage" and "Naima".
Two of trumpeter Art Farmer's earlier sessions as a leader are reissued on this CD in the OJC series. Farmer teams up with an all-star quintet (which includes tenor-saxophonist Sonny Rollins, pianist Horace Silver, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Kenny Clarke) for four songs and dominates a quartet (with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Addison Farmer and drummer Herbie Lovelle) on six other tunes. Farmer's sound is lyrical even on the uptempo pieces and he is heard throughout in his early prime. Highlights include "Soft Shoe," "I'll Take Romance," "Autumn Nocturne" and an uptempo "Gone with the Wind." One should note that the programming differs from what is listed, with "Soft Shoe" (which should have been the opener) actually appearing fifth and the songs listed as appearing second through fifth moving up to first through fourth. Despite that flaw, the music is quite enjoyable and a must for 1950s bop collectors.
Most of the titles on this album are derived from Thelonious Monk's vast catalog of bop standards. Both co-leaders are at the peak of their respective prowess with insightful interpretations of nearly half a dozen inspired performances from this incarnation of the Blakey-led Jazz Messengers. This combo features Art Blakey (drums), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Bill Hardman (trumpet), and Spanky Debrest (bass).
From 1964, Archie Shepp's first date as a leader featured – as one would expect from the title – four tunes by John Coltrane, his mentor, his major influence, and his bandleader. The fact that this album holds up better than almost any of Shepp's records nearly 40 years after the fact has plenty to do with the band he chose for this session, and everything to do with the arranging skills of trombonist Roswell Rudd. The band here is Shepp on tenor, John Tchicai on alto, Rudd on trombone, Trane's bassist Reggie Workman, and Ornette Coleman's drummer Charles Moffett. Even in 1964, this was a powerhouse, beginning with a bluesed-out wailing version of "Syeeda's Song Flute." This version is ingenious, with Shepp allowing Rudd to arrange for solos for himself and Tchicai up front and Rudd punching in the blues and gospel in the middle, before giving way to double time by Workman and Moffett. The rawness of the whole thing is so down-home you're ready to tell someone to pass the butter beans when listening.
Some of the finer CTI recordings of the late '70s were those led by flugelhornist Art Farmer. Although the emphasis was generally on obscure material (in this case Farmer plays one original, two songs by Dave Grusin and one piece by pianist Fritz Pauer) and often featured musicians who did not normally play together, the results were generally quite rewarding. For this CTI LP (long out-of-print), the focus is almost entirely on Farmer who is joined by keyboardist Grusin, guitarist Eric Gale, flutist Jeremy Steig, either Will Lee or George Mraz on bass and drummer Steve Gadd. The moody music holds one's interest throughout.
This 1965 set by organist Bill Doggett's band is well-played and spirited but quite lightweight. The nine selections are mostly blues-oriented jams without any memorable melodies, stirring solos, or moments that lift the program above the routine. The rather brief results are pleasant and groovin' but rather predictable.
As the title suggests, this is the definitive edition of Etta James' Tell Mama long-player. For this single-disc release the original album is augmented with five previously unissued tracks – documented during James' four Muscle Shoals sessions circa '67-'68. The question of why a rural Alabama town became a conduit for some of the most memorable and instantly identifiable grooves may still be up for debate. The evidence exists in droves and Tell Mama could certainly be considered exhibit A. These sessions feature the same impact that would redirect several first ladies of soul. Notable among them are Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis, Aretha Franklin's I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) and to somewhat lesser acclaim, Jackie DeShannon's Jackie. Tell Mama showcases some of the unique and admittedly darker qualities of what might best be described as R&B noir. "I'd Rather Go Blind," "Steal Away," "I'm Gonna Take What He's Got" all exemplify the essence of the blues – making the best of a bad situation.
The second of three Allison albums issued on Motown's Gordy subsidiary in the 1970s, Luther's Blues captures the guitarist's uncovered-wire sound in its full glory. The crescendo ending of "Let's Have a Little Talk," one of five Allison originals here, is more than another standard variation on crowd-pleasing clichés. It's an apocalyptic, blues-wailing roar, with Allison's pleading vocal at its core. Berry Gordy turns up in the composer credits for one tune, "Someday Pretty Baby," which, along with "Part Time Love," trawls the company's early raw-edged back catalog. Even the funk-flavored "K.T."–an attempted hit single?–fits the mood. The three bonus tracks on this exemplary remaster nearly double the original LP's length, with a raw version of Freddy King's "San-Ho-Zay" glowing alongside an alternate version of Allison's "Bloomington Closing" and a lengthy medley from the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues Festival.
Singer Abbey Lincoln's second recording, and her first for Riverside, finds her accompanied by quite an all-star roster: tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, trumpeter Kenny Dorham, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Max Roach. Even this early, she was already a major jazz singer with a style of her own. Lincoln was careful from this point on to only interpret lyrics that she believed in. Her repertoire has a few superior standards (including several songs such as "I Must Have That Man!" and "Don't Explain" that are closely associated with Billie Holiday) plus Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "Strong Man" and Phil Moore's "Tender as a Rose"; she takes the latter unaccompanied. "Don't Explain" is slightly unusual in that Paul Chambers is absent and Wynton Kelly makes an extremely rare appearance on bass. All three of Abbey Lincoln's Riverside albums are well worth the listen.