The Essential Dozen is a list of albums that provides a way for you to get started if you are just learning about Art Farmer. Our strategy in compiling these examples is to help you appreciate the wide range of Art’s remarkable musical legacy, assembled over a career spanning half a century. The list includes sessions with Art as both leader and sideman and drawn from several time periods and contexts.
One of the most lyrical of jazz soloists, Art was consistently able to develop beautiful, thoughtful and well-constructed improvisations. He was a master at performing ballads and interpreting The Great American Songbook. Yet, he could play fast and complicated passages when appropriate. Emerging around the same time as the tragically short-lived but higher profile Clifford Brown, the two trumpeters were often compared. Clifford’s technical brilliance was dazzling while Art’s melodicism was seductive.
Versatility was Art’s forte. He was an excellent sight-reader and able to fit into a variety of contexts. He performed many different styles of music well: R&B, bebop, hard bop, big band, modal, funk, Latin and even participated in some very experimental and ground-breaking sessions in the mid-1950s. He never seemed to turn down an opportunity to record and is present on some very obscure albums.
Art saw himself as a performer and entertainer — not as a composer — although he did do some writing. He frequently asked his sidemen to contribute songs that he included in his recordings. In this regard, Art had an ability to recognize talent in others. He picked great collaborators, perfect for his style, and would co-lead groups with them or appear as a featured artist. He performed with large orchestras, small ensembles and even in duo settings. Throughout his more than 50-year career, he transitioned from trumpet to flugelhorn to flumpet – a blend of the trumpet and flugelhorn — always working to perfect his sound.
Art can be heard on hundreds of recordings making it difficult to narrow the list to 12. For that reason, the subsequent list of The Elite Forty-Eight (48) exists for you to really delve into getting a greater understanding of Art’s musical talent.
Enjoy the music and let us hear from you!