Tal Farlow's guitar work from the 1950s remains exciting, and Finest Hour, consisting of his Verve work between 1952 and 1956, is dazzling. These small-group recordings of bop and cool jazz feature a number of top performers from the era. Bassist Red Mitchell, drummer Stan Levey, and pianist Claude Williamson join Farlow for "There Will Never Be Another You," "Fascinating Rhythm," and "How Deep Is the Ocean?" This group blazes through "Tea for Two" at such a quick pace that the tune almost loses its melodic structure (this certainly wasn't the way Django Reinhardt played it!). Farlow provides a sterling example of the technical competence necessary to play bop by stringing notes together at a dizzying rate. Farlow, bassist Vinnie Burke, and pianist Eddie Costa turn out several lively pieces without the help of a drummer. They offer a sprightly version of Cole Porter's "I Love You" and a bluesy take on Clark Terry's "Chuckles." One of the fascinating qualities of Farlow's guitar work is his ability to play fast while still retaining a style all his own. He developed a number of techniques (tapping the strings, playing harmonics) but also proved capable of sensitive interpretations of ballads like "Skylark." It didn't hurt that many repertoires of the day were filled with standards, complete with distinct melodies, by writers like Irving Berlin and George & Ira Gershwin. Finest Hour is a great collection of the music that made Farlow a jazz legend in his own time. It is also an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with this amazing guitarist.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.