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Joe Farnsworth: A Beautiful Friendship

C. Andrew Hovan By

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A name that we'll definitely being hearing more of in the years to come, drummer Joe Farnsworth has developed an enviable reputation in the Big Apple doing what he does best- swinging like mad, booting the soloist along and sounding great while doing all the above! The 31-year-old native of Massachusetts is one of five bothers, all of them musical and all of them fostered by a father who was a trumpeter and teacher himself. Following studies with Alan Dawson and Art Taylor, along with time spent in the jazz program at William Paterson College, Farnsworth hit New York where he would work with Cecil Payne and the late Junior Cook and the rest, as they say, is history.

For several years Farnsworth led a regular gig at a New York club called Augie's (now re-opened as Smoke Jazz Club) which would bring him in contact with a group of musicians that have become the core of today's best mainstream players. Eventually appearing under the name One For All, the group would include tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, and bassist Peter Washington. Many of these men appear regularly on Criss Cross Jazz, leading to Farnsworth's latest spate of recording activity for the label and becoming as often recorded as his predecessors at Criss Cross, Kenny Washington and Billy Drummond.

All the above logically leads us to the session at hand, Joe's first to date as a leader and not surprisingly such old buddies as Eric Alexander and Steve Davis appear, with such ringers as Cedar Walton and Eddie Henderson thrown in for good measure. The chemistry is perfect and the three-horn front line is particularly strong. The opening "Eddie's Mood" by Steve Davis contains the hip kind of vamp figures that this talented writer has explored in the past so well. This leads to a string of tasty solos perfectly backed by a shuffle rhythm, a la Blakey, that serves as an impeccable introduction for what is to follow, namely 72 minutes of vigorous and animated hard bop of the first order. I nice mix of band originals and a few standards include such highlights as Walton's funky "I'm Not So Sure", Lee Morgan's "Melancholee" and Farnsworth's Coltrane- inspired "I See You, Brother."

Another strong point to this album has to be Farnsworth's highly musical drumming. Not inclined to aimless displays of technical mastery, this drummer has mastered the art of being a full-fledged member of the rhythm section. His backing is strong, but also complimentary and marked by the appealing buzz of a crisp, riveted ride cymbal. His snare attack is clean and accented by tasty rim shots that contrast well with his rich and open sounding bass drum and tom- toms. In short, the man has developed a drum sound that is uniquely his own, a task not often easy accomplished.

Jazz has always thrived on its communal nature, older artists inspiring younger ones, younger ones advancing the music, and so on. Farnsworth has made the most of this tradition and is already one of the finest jazz drummers of his generation. The torch has been passed and, believe me, it's in good hands!


Track Listing: Eddie's Mood, Beautiful Friendship, Joobie, Lament, I'm Not So Sure, Something in Common, I See You, Brother, Melancholee, Joe's Tempo (71:58)

Personnel: Joe Farnsworth- drums, Cedar Walton- piano, Eddie Henderson- trumpet, Eric Alexander- tenor saxophone, Steve Davis- trombone, Nat Reeves- bass

Title: A Beautiful Friendship | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Criss Cross


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