Art Farmer Quotes

“I would classify myself as, being an interpreter, basically, of what other people have written. I find something that I feel comfortable in – that I can put myself into – and that’s what I do, play it. I express myself through the music that someone else wrote. With the availability of so much good music, there’s no reason to play mediocre music just because you wrote it yourself, which some people do.”  

Art Farmer


“For a person to have a contented life, they have to find something that challenges them and respond to it…”

Art Farmer – May, 1995


“What blues mean to me: The blues are about the freest thing we have in jazz. You can do damn near anything you want to on them. You don’t have to worry about playing a note that doesn’t go with the chord so long as the note is part of an idea that makes sense with the blues background. The blues mean more to me than any other form because of this freedom and because they’re more emotional than any other. Some people play blues as if they’re thinking only about the changes. I don’t, because as long as I’m worried about the chords, I’m going to hold back; and for me, it’s the feeling that makes the blues. I just go ahead and play what I feel and like to hear.”

Art Farmer – 1958

The source is the liner notes (Nat Hentoff) to the LP Portrait of Art Farmer, Contemporary Records, 1958.


“I would classify myself as, being an interpreter, basically, of what other people have written. I find something that I feel comfortable in – that I can put myself into – and that’s what I do, play it. I express myself through the music that someone else wrote. With the availability of so much good music, there’s no reason to play mediocre music just because you wrote it yourself, which some people do.”

Art Farmer

From the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Project.  Page 83 of the PDF of the transcribed taped interviews.   The interview was recorded  June 29 – 30, 1995.


“You can try 10 different #4’s and each will sound different. A mouthpiece is just a thing that connects the musician to the horn. It has to fit just right. You can spend your entire life looking for the perfect mouthpiece. I know guys who do. It’s better to spend your time looking for the perfect notes.”

Art Farmer — Downbeat 1988