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Art Farmer and Jim Hall

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Art Farmer
After Jim Hall's dynamic and experimental work as a member of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 in the mid- and late '50s, the guitarist became an in-demand partner of small-group leaders. This period in the early '60s began with Sonny Rollins' The Bridge and What's New (January and April 1962, respectively), continuing with Bill Evans on Undercurrent and Interplay (April and July 1962). Then came Gary Burton's Something's Coming (August 1963) and a series of albums with Paul Desmond. One small-group recording that's often overlooked during this period is Art Farmer's Interaction (Atlantic). [Pictured clockwise, from right: Jim Hall, Art Farmer, Steve Swallow and Walter Perkins]

Yesterday, Jim told me he hadn't heard the album in about “80 years." More with Jim in a moment.

Recorded in July 1963 with bassist Steve Swallow and  drummer Walter Perkins, the album features Jim and flugelhornist Farmer conversing calmly throughout on their instruments. In most cases, Farmer takes the first solo, with Jim providing voicings behind, followed by Jim soloing, backed by Swallow and Perkins. Farmer plays warmly and is an ideal foil. Unlike Jim's other small-group dates, this one is the sound of two artists thinking, especially given the laid-back pace.

Jim and Farmer first recorded together on Listen to Art Farmer, a big band session for Mercury in 1962, and again as members of the Gerry Mulligan Sextet at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1963. After Farmer and Benny Golson's Jazztet broke up, Farmer united with Jim.

Billed here as the Art Farmer Quartet, this was a working group. Farmer and Jim had been playing for about a year in Boston, New York and Washington prior to entering the studio. The group was formed in the summer of 1962, and Farmer was featured on the more mellow flugelhorn rather than trumpet, springing softly off Jim's ringing guitar lines.

Interestingly, the quyartet recorded all gentle standards on Interaction, starting with Henry Mancini's Days of Wine and Roses. Taken at a trot, Farmer rolls out the melody while Jim plays four-beat rhythm guitar. After running through the song straight, they shift gears, with Farmer wandering around the melody and Jim playing jazz chords. When it's Jim's turn to solo, the result is pure bliss as he intermingles chords with his signature string-bending lines.By Myself, My Little Suede Shoes and Embraceable You are taken with the same velvet-slipper sound, allowing for a hushed musical dialogue.

The last two tunes on the album were new gems at the time. The first was Loads of Love by Richard Rodgers from his show, ironically titled No Strings (1962). The other was Sometime Ago by Sergio Mihanovich, an Argentinian singer. The latter song is a waltz and is a quintessential early '60s jazz tune. It's a tender, dance melody that all but shouts “Greenwich Village in the early fall."

I gave Jim Hall a call yesterday to chat about the album:

“I had bumped into Art in a few situations around New York before we started the quartet. We also recorded together a couple of times in other settings. When we formed the group in 1962, Ron Carter was originally on bass. Then Miles Davis stole Ron away for his group, and we got Steve [Swallow]. A year or so later, Walter left and Pete LaRoca joined on drums.

“Art had such a beautiful, melodic blare. So thoughtful. It was a pleasure working with him. He approached music the same way Bill Evans did, with that same level of intensity.

“By the way, Bill was the one who got me to do those two  albums with him [Undercurrent and Intermodulation].I had known Bill when he worked with clarinetist Tony Scott in the '50s. I also worked opposite Bill when he was with Miles Davis and I was with Jimmy Giuffre.

“One day, when I was working with Sonny [Rollins] in early '62, Bill came into the club where we were playing and on a break asked me if I wanted to record with him. That's how Undercurrent came about.

“As with Bill, every note had meaning with Art. There were no frills or showoff stuff. It was pure thoughtful pleasure."

JazzWax tracks: Interaction by the Art Farmer Quartet,  featuring Jim Hall, is available as a download here.

Farmer and Jim recorded two additional albums together in the early '60s: Live at the Half Note here and To Sweden With Love here. The quartet also recorded three tracks on Anamari, an Atlantic release from 1964 featuring the singer Anaa Schofield. The tracks are Blame It on My Youth, The More I See You and Love Look Away. It's available only on vinyl, and there are copies at eBay here.

JazzWax note: Anaa Schofield died last year. For more on her, go here.

JazzWax clip: Here's Art Farmer and Jim Hall in 1964...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

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