Jazz CD Reviews
Art Farmer – The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note – Cam London (6-CD set)
Published on December 9, 2013
Art Farmer – The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note – Cam London Ltd BXS 1025 (6 CDs) 1981-1987 – [10/23/13] (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ****½:
(Art Farmer – flugelhorn; Massimo Urbani, Sahib Shihab, Clifford Jordan, Benny Golson – saxophones; Curtis Fuller – trombone; Enrico Pieranunzi, Kenny Drew, Fred Hersch, Mickey Tucker, Fritz Pauer – piano; Furio Di Castri, Mads Vinding, Ray Drummond, Rufus Reid – bass; Roberto Gatto, Ed Thigpen, Akira Tana, Albert Heath – drums)
Isis – 1981 (Italy)
Manhattan – 1982 (Italy)
Mirage – 1982 (Italy)
Moment to Moment (The Jazztet) – 1983 (Italy)
You Make Me Smile – 1985 (New York)
Azure – (Flugelhorn and piano only) – 1987 (Austria)
Art Farmer was in his prime at age 40 in 1968, when he joined the exodus of many major jazz musicians who moved to Europe to explore the Continent’s more accepting lifestyle, subsidized health care, and the European audience’s keen appreciation of American jazz artists. Many of these American jazz stars were met with adulation and the freedom to explore their vision without the constraints of the American record labels. They could freely tour and record with both visiting U.S. jazz musicians, as well as eager and developing European jazz musicians, who were happy to learn from and show the Americans that they could hold their own on stage as well as in recording studios.
Farmer moved to Vienna, Austria to play with the Austrian Radio Orchestra, as well as the Francy Boland-Kenny Clarke Big Band, which at that time could match up with the best touring American bands, as Kenny and Francy had recruited the best of American expatriates for their European-based big band.
Art Farmer continued to return to the States to tour and record for the rest of his life until he passed away on October 4, 1999. During this time period (and for the rest of his life), he largely had switched from trumpet to Flugelhorn. There were several reasons. At the beginning he preferred the more burnished tone of the Flugelhorn for his ballad playing, and later on it demanded less “wind” and power, as his lung capacity began naturally to diminish. Farmer was a master on this horn, and along with Freddie Hubbard, had a gorgeous tone on the horn that put him in good stead in smaller group settings.
For the time period covered in this box set, Art largely played with visiting American stars when recording in Italy. There is the exception of the initial Soul Note release, Isis, where he teamed with an all-Italian quintet that included the talented pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, who went on to make a name for himself on the world jazz scene. Enrico has his own Black Saint/ Soul Note box set that has recently been released. Also on the final disc of this set, Art records a duo horn/piano session with established pianist Fritz Pauer. Fritz has at least ten CDs as a leader on his own, and Azure is a sublime recording of mostly standards with Pauer, including three of his own compositions.
A treat provided in this box set is the inclusion of a Jazztet recording, Moment to Moment, from 1983. The Jazztet was a renowned group of super stars including Farmer, Benny Golson, and Curtis Fuller, who recorded in the 1960s, and then reformed in the 1980s adding Mickey Tucker to take the place of McCoy Tyner on piano. The 1983 recording has several of their classic tunes such as the title track, “Along Came Betty,” and “Farmer’s Market.”
Other significant highlights of this box set are on Manhattan, where Art teams with fellow ex-pats, Sahib Shihab, Kenny Drew, and Ed Thigpen to explore “Blue Wail,” “Back Door Beauty,” on which baritone master Shihab switches to soprano sax. The group gives a gorgeous lyrical reading to the title track.
You Make Me Smile and Mirage have special meaning as they brought back together Art with Clifford Jordan. The two veteran stars had played together early in their careers, but it was not till the 1980s that they again recorded together, which they continued to do on a more regular basis until Jordan’s passing in 1993.
The remastered sound found on these six albums is quite pleasant with the bass and drums given prominence in the mix, as well as giving Farmer’s playing a clear crispness. No complaints here. It should be noted that the box set is bare bones with each CD in a cardboard holder with no protection, and the liner notes shrunken to such a small size that they are very difficult to decipher. It’s a small detriment, however, as the track titles and musician names are clearly readable. Most importantly, these Black Saint/ Soul Note box sets are readily available at very competitive prices. For fans of Art Farmer, this European period has been hard to collect and the music is essential as it features “A” list sidemen, and Farmer in his prime. Highly recommended!
Isis – Isis, Ah-Leu-Cha, Love Walked In, Blue ‘N’ Boogie, Soul Dance, Nancy, Au Privave, Little Moon
Manhattan – Context, Blue Wail, Manhattan, Passport, Arrival, Back Door Beauty
Mirage – Barbados, Passos, My Kinda Love, Mirage, Cherokee Sketches, Smiling Billy
Moment to Moment – Moment to Moment, Along Came Betty, Farmer’s Market, Fair Weather, Yesterday’s Thoughts, Ease Away Walk
You Make Me Smile – You Make Me Smile, Prelude No. 1, Nostalgia, Flashback, Souvenir, Have You Met Miss Jones?
Azure – If You Could See Me Now, Nighttime, Yesterday’s Thoughts, Blue Windows, Azure, Sound Within an Empty Room, Soul Eyes, Danielle, Song of Praise