When I first heard Art Farmer he sounded so melodic, fluid and magical it was startling. Art played the trumpet with a warm sound, full of ideas, motifs and twists to his playing. He didn’t play quotes (which I’m not against if someone of Sonny Rollins’ quality plays them) or play “lines”, but seemed, like Chet Baker, to have an innate sense of what notes to play.
When his wife, Renee Farmer, asked me if I’d like to see Art perform at the Sweet Basil Jazz Club in New York City I leapt at the chance. During the break, I asked Art about a specific line he had played over the song “Rain Check” from the album Listen to Art Farmer and the Orchestra.
Art took practically the entire break explaining to me the significance of the dominant “altered” scale and George Russell’s thoughts on using the Lydian augmented scale starting on the major 3rd of the altered scale. As with Barry Harris’s teaching, I had an epiphany in the way I would like to approach my improvisation.
The flugelhorn in Art’s hands was to me the “ideal” flugelhorn sound. I had talked to Woody Shaw about trumpeters picking up the flugel and how it seemed that they were simply “taking a break” from the trumpet and not realizing the warmth and depth of that particular instrument. Personally, it was as plain as the difference between the flute and the tenor saxophone – that the two were different in tone and demeanor, and that they should be approached differently.
Art was a major influence on jazz improvisation and certainly to my way of playing. You’d be hard put to find a more beautiful player with such cogent and pleasing solos and I feel blessed to have known Art, experienced his playing live, and have him as a musical friend for a little while. – Richie Vitale
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