Art Farmer – Live in 1964 – (Jazz Icons IV Series)
Studio: Reelin’ In the Years/ Jazz Icons 2119019 [Distr. by Naxos] [Release date: 10/27/09]
Video: 4:3 B&W (Recorded for BBC television)
Audio: Dolby mono
Extras: 20 page booklet with liner notes by Don Sickler
Length: 60 minutes
(Art Farmer, flugelhorn; Jim Hall, guitar; Steve Swallow, bass; Pete LaRocca, drums)
What jumps out immediately in viewing the Art Farmer DVD, Live in 1964, from the Jazz Icons 4th edition of DVD releases is the phenomenal quality of the black and white video. Whoever was the cinematographer for this 1964 session was certainly using top end video equipment, as you can see every blemish on Art Farmer’s face, very similar to what you find today while watching high definition television on a high end monitor. The difference today is that the make-up artists make sure that the newscasters are using high quality facial cosmetics to high any flaws on their face. This, of course, was not an issue, nor even thought of for a jazz performance back in 1964. The lighting for the Farmer Quartet on the BBC studio is quite professional as the background is a solid black and the lighting is shadowy and muted with the most light at floor level coming up. The band members are perched on riser platforms, and are at different levels, which make viewing a pleasure as while the camera focuses in on the soloist, you can see the other quartet members deep in concentration comping behind the soloist. The clarity of video is striking and adds to the pleasure of hearing these superb artists either hunched over their instruments (Swallow and Hall) or fully upright (Farmer and LaRocca) with their hands busy at work. I would have to say that the Farmer DVD has the best video of any of the DVDs I have viewed so far in the Jazz Icons series. Getting access to the BBC library of jazz performances was a major coup for David Peck of Reelin’ in the Years Productions.
The mono audio on this DVD is very good as well. Farmer’s solos on his flugelhorn are clear, warm, and a testament to the care and deliberation that Art brought to his flugelhorn. He takes his time, with each note telling a story, working as an oil painter mixing colors to set a mood. Next to Art on stage was Jim Hall, a study in intensity, either while comping behind Art, or weaving his magic on solos, which highlight virtuosity rather than flashiness. Hall had recently left the employment of Sonny Rollins, and on Rollins’ Valse Hot, Jim shows his mastery of Sony’s classic composition. On Bilbao Song, done up-tempo, the expressions on Hall’s face show how focused Jim was on the interplay between Swallow, himself, and Farmer.
The ballad Darn That Dream showcases Farmer’s lyrical side. Art sits out on I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, while Hall takes charge leading the trio. So in Love, is propelled by Pete LaRocca’s cymbal mastery, and there is great video of Pete trading choruses with Farmer. Hall gives a bossa nova treatment to Petite Belle, a Farmer composition, while Art is very selective picking his phrases to set a mood of reflection.
The liner notes by jazz educator and trumpeter, Don Sickler, are very comprehensive, both in their song analysis and knowledge of the quartet’s history. I would definitely place the Art Farmer Live in ’64 in the upper echelon of the over thirty-five DVDs of the Jazz Icons series so far. For fans of Farmer, or connoisseurs of older jazz video performances, the purchase of this DVD is an easy decision.
– Jeff Krow