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Album Review

Modern Art is the prelude recording for Art Farmer prior to his partnership in the Jazztet with Benny Golson, 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 on this one 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, but never tame or conservatively lazy. Included on this date is the great Junior Mance tune "Jubilation," perfectly understated in a light blue gospel soul-jazz and tuneful melody with both horns wonderfully matched up in balanced unison, side by side. Farmer's lone compositional contribution, "Mox Nix" deserves similar iconic accolades, as it is an equally memorable, hopped-up shuffle with the uncharacteristically rumbling piano of Evans in soul-jazz to swing trim. Another notable track is Wade Legge's "Cold Breeze," which is hardly refrigerated, but instead a breezy hard bop vehicle, snappy, even-keeled, but not bubbling. The trumpeter — after all — is the official leader and arranger, taking the stage front and center for the ballad "Darn That Dream" and the midtempo take of "The Touch of Your Lips," with Golson in late, seconding the motions. For this time period, you clearly hear a refined and maturing Farmer, qualities he would hold for the remainder of his substantial career. He plops in the mute for Cole Porter's "I Love You," waxing poetic and effortlessly like a figure skater gliding through a simple routine, and Evans even gets to jam out a bit. Benny Golson's personal voice on tenor is also coming of age, as you hear during his feature "Like Someone in Love," but he's also starting to emerge as a writer with the moderately swinging "Fair Weather," displaying harmonic interplay that hints at things to come. The historical aspects of this recording — in retrospect — cannot be trivialized, but more importantly, some darn good straight-ahead jazz is played here by experts in their field. Modern Art was originally on the United Artists label and moved to Blue Note upon its CD release, and the Farmer-Golson combine proved to be a important pairing beyond their initial partnership, with the seeds of that forest flower heard and enjoyed here. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 16 August 1929 in Plainfield, NJ

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

With the passage of time, Bill Evans has become an entire school unto himself for pianists and a singular mood unto himself for listeners. There is no more influential jazz-oriented pianist — only McCoy Tyner exerts nearly as much pull among younger players and journeymen — and Evans has left his mark on such noted players as Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau. Borrowing heavily from the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, Evans brought a new, introverted, relaxed,...
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