Art Farmer Quartet

Interaction/Sing Me Softly of the Blues

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This compilation from Collectables restores to circulation two strong Atlantic dates from Art Farmer's immediate post-Jazztet period. One session features Farmer's quartet playing standards with swinging subtlety; the other draws on original writing and has a classic, hard bop feel. Interaction, from 1963, is a vehicle for the intertwining improvisations of guitarist Jim Hall and Farmer, on fl├╝gelhorn, who weaves through and around Hall's sublimely understated lines with disarming ease, elegance, and sensitivity. Their approach draws to mind the great duet outings Hall made with pianist Bill Evans (Undercurrent and Intermodulation). Bassist Steve Swallow, at this time still strictly an acoustic player, and drummer Walter Perkins are also given lots of the spotlight in a intimate mix that highlights the quartet's telepathic interplay. The only misgiving is some occasional distortion in Hall's and Swallow's parts. Sing Me Softly of the Blues, the more extroverted of these two dates, is a 1965 session, again with Swallow, along with pianist Steve Kuhn and drummer Pete La Roca. Kuhn frequently plays with go-for-broke intensity, his sheer exuberance more than making up for occasional technical lapses. His keyboard-pounding passion is heard to best advantage on the group's version of Carla Bley's "Ad Infinitum." La Roca, in the mold of the best hard bop drummers, plays with drive, intensity, and an ability to nuance and guide the pulse of a tune. Farmer is masterful throughout, transcending the fl├╝gelhorn's inherent mellowness with a tart, crisp, clean articulation that moves with seemingly, effortless grace through legato passages and more sharply punctuated sections. This compilation can be readily recommended to Farmer's fans and to listeners with an interest in any of the players involved.

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