Here is a summary of significant events regarding the life and music of Art Farmer:
1928 (August 21): Art Farmer and twin brother Addison born in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
1932: parents divorce; father dies as a result of a steel foundry accident; family moves to Phoenix, Arizona where the twins begin music studies; grandfather, Abner Stewart (1864-1936), becomes the pastor of Tanner Chapel AME Church at 20 South 8th Street; as they mature, twins have their first exposure to jazz through radio broadcasts and live tour appearances in that city.
Art’s grandmother, Mattie, the first black woman to get a degree in Iowa, forms a night school in Phoenix, a WPA project, to teach African American adults how to read. Art’s mother, born in Cincinnati, is a substitute teacher.
1936: grandfather dies and family moves out of Parish House to 936 East Washington in Phoenix.
1939: Art’s initial instruments: piano, violin (Mr. Reynolds – WPA teacher).
1941: attends George Washington Carver High School, 415 East Grant St., now an African American Museum and Cultural Center; plays sousaphone in the Marching Band (one of Father Emmett McLoughlin’s projects in Phoenix), and then trumpet; forms a dance band with his high school friends.
Art hears jazz bands over the radio, Ellington, etc.; sees Jimmy Lunceford band at the Riverside Ballroom in Phoenix: “When I heard the sound of that trumpet section, that changed my life.” Trumpeter Harry James becomes one of Art’s favorites.
1945: twins make their first visit to Los Angeles to which city they relocate for their senior year of high school (and live by themselves in the Dunbar Hotel!); attend Jefferson High and become part of the vibrant Central Avenue jazz scene.
1946-1947: relocates to New York City, working odd jobs and studying with Maurice Grupp, but is unprepared for that competitive environment and returns to Los Angeles to woodshed.
1949-1950: performs and records with the legendary big band led by drummer Roy Porter.
1952 (September 9): breakout recording with tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray for Prestige Records where Farmer’s blues, “Farmer’s Market” is included and his trumpet solo on that track immortalized by Annie Ross’s vocalese version.
1953: joins the Lionel Hampton orchestra and tours the US and Europe; band also includes stars to be saxophonist Gigi Gryce, trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, trumpeter Clifford Brown and arranger Quincy Jones.
1953 (July 2): first recording as leader (for Prestige Records) with septet arrangements by Quincy Jones and Gigi Gryce.
1954-1956: quintet with saxophonist Gigi Gryce tours and records for Prestige Records.
1955: participates in highly regarded recordings by bassist Oscar Pettiford, Gigi Gryce and others and becomes firmly established on the New York scene.
1958: records Portrait of Art Farmer for Contemporary Records; joins Gerry Mulligan’s “new” quartet and tours and records with that ensemble into 1959; records Modern Art for United Artists Records with saxophonist Benny Golson and pianist Bill Evans; part of the all-star line up on New York, N.Y. for Decca with George Russell.
1960-1961: forms the Jazztet with co-leader Benny Golson which sextet records several albums for the Argo and Mercury labels but disbands in 1962; records the highly regarded quartet albums Art and Perception for Argo.
1962: switches predominantly from trumpet to flugelhorn; records the magnificent Listen to Art Farmer and the Orchestra for Mercury.
1963: forms notable quartet with guitarist Jim Hall and records for Atlantic with that ensemble which lasts into 1965; twin brother Addison, who had become an accomplished bassist, dies in New York City (February 20) from a brain aneurysm.
1965: begins the transition to living in Europe culminating in his relocation to Vienna in 1968, but maintains contacts in and makes frequent trips to the USA; eventually he would perform in just about every country on the European continent and the U.K.
1966: performs in Vienna with trombonist J.J. Johnson and saxophonist Cannonball Adderley as part of a “Modern Jazz Competition” held in Vienna and judges the competition; forms a quintet with saxophonist Jimmy Heath that records for Columbia Records.
1972: records Gentle Eyes.
1978: records Big Blues (with Jim Hall).
1987: records Something to Live For: The Music of Billy Strayhorn with a quintet featuring Clifford Jordan and Azure, a duo with Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer.
1988: records Blame It on My Youth (with Clifford Jordan).
1989: receives a salute at the New York Brass Conference for Scholarships; records several of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos scored for jazz orchestra by Benny Golson and Ph.D. with a sextet including Clifford Jordan, guitarist Kenny Burrell and pianist James Williams; also a live concert with saxophonist Frank Morgan entitled Central Avenue Reunion.
1992: reunites with Gerry Mulligan for the “Re-Birth of the Cool Tour” in the US and Europe.
1996: records in Poland with bassist Harvie S and Polish musicians (Art in Wroclaw), Live at the Stanford Jazz Workshop (with saxophonist Harold Land) and another revival of the Jazztet (One day, Forever).
1998: Awarded the prestigious Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class, presented by the President of Austria on Farmer’s 70th birthday; inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame; records Art Farmer Quintet Live at Jazzland (in Vienna – with Harry Sokal, Fritz Pauer); The “Great Day in Harlem Tour,” celebrating the 40th anniversary of Art Kane’s iconic photograph, commences and continues into 1999 with a quintet made up of Ron Blake, pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Yoron Israel.
1999: (January) becomes an NEA Jazz Master; (April 28) last known recording of Art Farmer – a duo concert with pianist Fritz Pauer that took place at the residence of the American ambassador to Austria and was privately recorded; Art Farmer dies in New York City on October 4 after suffering a heart attack; his ashes are interred next to brother Addison at Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery, 2300 West Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ.
2001: posthumously elected to the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.