Record of the Day: Art Farmer, "Sing Me Softly of the Blues"

Record of the Day: Art Farmer, “Sing Me Softly of the Blues”

Art Farmer
Sing Me Softly of the Blues (Cd Atlantic 756780773-2)

Art Farmer's trumpet has often been appreciated more by musicians than by the general public; perhaps due to Farmer's personal shyness (not inclined to grandstanding) he was not given the same success that elevated names such as Miles Davis and Lee Morgan to icons of modern jazz, alongside whom Farmer can easily find himself at ease.

Farmer's technical-expressive baggage is impressive, but even more so is the intelligence at the service of which it is used; in addition to being a soloist with reckless imagination whose solos shine with inventiveness and the ability to never settle into a series of clich├ęs, Farmer relates to each of his musical partners with the humility of authentically great personalities. An ardent protagonist of the bop period (but we must not forget his previous militancy in Lionel Hampton's orchestra) and author of splendid solo albums for Prestige, starting from the 1960s he followed with interest the developments of the modal language brought forward by Coltrane and Davis.

“Sing Me Softly of the Blues” is from 1965 and represents the best of his albums of the period thanks to the very high quality of the songs contained (the title track and “Ad Infinitum” would be enough, coming from the unmistakable pen of Carla Bley, to qualify the album) and the superb game of expressive references between the musicians.
Steve Kuhn (piano), Steve Swallow (double bass) and Pete La Roca (drums), each with his own distinct musical personality, manage to blend into a refined and powerful ensemble at the same time, settling into very soft atmospheres where Farmer's flugelhorn can unfold all his melodic ability, subsequently veering towards more angular situations, with decidedly accentuated rhythmic tension (“Tears” is the most successful example).

The usual homage to tradition is not missing with the magnificent version of “I Waited for You” composed by Dizzy Gillespie and Gil Fuller, old warhorse of the Jazz Messengers and here proposed in a rarefied atmosphere, interrupted only by Khun's solo which introduces more rhythmic elements than other musicians.

Freshness of performance and brilliant musicianship make this work an excellent introduction to Farmer's indisputable talent.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.