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The Jazztet at Birdhouse

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Album Review

The Jazztet were only in existence for a brief time (1959-1962, not counting the later reunions), but with a flurry of recording activity they left a valuable legacy. By the time of they made their fourth album, co-leaders Art Farmer and Benny Golson were the only remaining original members, but the presence of underrated trombonist Tom McIntosh (who is appreciated more for his compositions than his playing ability, since he stopped performing in 1969), Cedar Walton, bassist Thomas Williams, and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath are a welcome presence. These live performances are from a 1961 engagement at the Birdhouse in Chicago. Golson's "Junction" is an easygoing blues that is marred slightly by what seems to be a rather sloppy edit in the master tape. A hard-blowing up-tempo take of "Farmer's Market," written by Farmer but arranged by Golson, features memorable solos by the leaders, while J.J. Johnson's arrangement of his blues "Shutterbug" clearly inspires the group. McIntosh's "November Afternoon" seems to begin as a ballad, but quickly evolves into a hard bop cooker. Golson's extended treatment of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" features his emotional tenor sax, while Farmer alternates between his mellow flugelhorn and fiery trumpet. The interaction between the musicians throughout the session adds to the value of this live material, and it is good to finally have it reissued intact, though it won't be available for long since it is part of Verve's limited-edition reissue series.


Born: 21 August 1928 in Council Bluffs, IA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Largely overlooked during his formative years, Art Farmer's consistently inventive playing was more greatly appreciated as he continued to develop. Along with Clark Terry, Farmer helped to popularize the flügelhorn among brass players. His lyricism gave his bop-oriented style its own personality. Farmer studied piano, violin, and tuba before settling on trumpet. He worked in Los Angeles from 1945 on, performing regularly on Central Avenue and spending time in the bands of Johnny Otis, Jay McShann,...
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