Art Farmer's stay at Concord Jazz was relatively brief. The ex-trumpeter turned full-time flugelhornist only recorded two albums for Concord -- A Work of Art in 1981 and Warm Valley in 1982 -- both of which were produced by the late Concord founder Carl Jefferson. In 2001, Concord reissued the acoustic hard bop dates back to back as the two-CD set ARTistry. Farmer excels on both albums, which isn't surprising because his work was quite consistent in the '80s. A Work of Art and Warm Valley both find the improviser leading quartets; neither album uses a saxophonist and both feature a young Fred Hersch on piano. But while A Work of Art employs Bob Bodley on bass and Billy Hart on drums, Farmer is joined by bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Akira Tana on Warm Valley. As one might expect, the Bill Evans-influenced Hersch is a major asset on both albums. Hersch's pianism is perfect for these sessions because, like Farmer, he is swinging but extremely lyrical. For Farmer, bop wasn't just about how many notes you could play or how fast you could play them; it was about being expressive and telling a story, and Hersch felt the same way, which is why the musicians enjoy such a strong rapport on material that ranges from Tommy Flanagan's "Eclypso" and Billy Strayhorn's "Upper Manhattan Medical Group" to three Hersch pieces: "One for Sam," "And Now There's You," and "Summersong." ARTistry falls short of essential, but it's still a highly rewarding example of how great Farmer sounded in the '80s.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2