1. Sometime Ago
2. Bilbao Song
3. Darn That Dream
4. Valse Hot
5. So in Love
6. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
7. Petite Belle
8. Bags' Groove
Art Farmer – Flugelhorn
Jim Hall – Guitar
Steve Swallow – Bass
Pete LaRoca – Drums
This session was filmed in London as part of the BBC’s Jazz 625
series of programmes. It was one of the most successful jazz programmes
produced by the Beeb, so let’s hope that many more of these fine programmes
are available soon on the Naxos Jazz Icon DVDs.
According to the comprehensive accompanying booklet, this was in
fact the last recording by the group using this line-up. Art Farmer
was always a joy to listen to. I heard him live at the Pizza Express
club in London and several times at various venues in Birmingham.
His playing was, like his appearance, always immaculate; his superb
tone on flugel was only matched by his ability to improvise on any
tune in a logical but always inventive way.
Jim Hall was an equally inventive musician: his brilliant guitar
playing enabled him to "comp" perfectly behind any soloist,
to solo himself in a bold and confident way and also, when playing
theme statements, to harmonise brilliantly with any other front-line
Steve Swallow and Pete LaRoca were more than adequate as a support
team, able to propel the front line along with maximum swing and minimum
noise, a rare quality!
Occasionally there is a lack of excitement. All of the members of
the group are master musical technicians and the music is a bit too
clinical. Thankfully these moments are rare, in what is an all-round
excellent performance by all concerned. This is melodic jazz: you
are always aware of the tune and the improvisations mostly follow
the original sequence. To my mind it is the most difficult type of
jazz to play, but the easiest and most pleasant to listen to.
The programme has variety in plenty and some first rate tunes. Sometime
Ago is a case in point, a charming melody by Argentine composer
Sergio Mihanovitch. The next selection Bilbao Song, a Kurt
Weill show tune from Happy Ending, which is given an up-tempo
and very exciting treatment. The exchanges between Art and drummer
Pete LaRoca are particularly exciting and make for interesting listening.
Playing eight-bar exchanges on a 28-bar tune requires some thought,
but the quartet handles it very well. Darn That Dream might
have been written for Art Farmer, being one of the most famous ballads
ever written. Valse Hot is a Sonny Rollins composition; this
is an exceptional track where everyone performs really well. Art sets
the tone, but solos from Jim Hall and Steve Swallow keep the intensity
going well. So in Love, another well-known standard, has a
difficult sequence, but to this quartet it does not seem to be a problem.
Even though they have adapted the format of the tune, they give a
convincing performance throughout. I particularly liked Jim Hall’s
solo on this track.
Jim Hall takes centre stage on I’m Getting Sentimental Over You;
he is featured throughout and demonstrates why he is thought by many
to be one of the definitive guitar players in jazz. Petite Belle
is a very attractive melody with an ABC format and, just to make things
more difficult, A and B are 9 bars in length and C is 12!
The last track is Milt Jackson’s Bags' Groove. The quartet
gives it a minor feel and round off what is an excellent DVD in great
style. It comes as quite a shock to see anything in black-and-white
these days, but the music certainly makes up for it!