Veteran drummer Joe Farnsworth figuratively steps from behind his trap kit to lead some of the musicians for whom he has served as rhythm master in the past fifteen years. Farnsworth has attracted much attention from both the old guard and young Turks alike. The former is represented by Harold Mabern, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, and Ron Carter; the latter by Eric Alexander, David Hazeltine, and Jim Rotondi. With a group like this, it is a bit hard to know what to expect. What occurs is the making of the most fresh and alive mainstream jazz in recent memory.
The mood of the recording is diverse, studied, and carefully prepared. Pianists Harold Mabern and David Hazeltine provide original tunes especially for this recording date. Benny Golson roughs out "And So, I Love Again," which was composed in '85 but was never recorded. Golson and Curtis Fuller team up on Golson's "Five Spot After Dark," recalling Art Blakey, while Fuller, Rotondi and Joe's brother John Farnsworth stride through "Hello, Young Lovers." The title cut, composed by Farnsworth, is a brilliant throwback to the soul jazz of the 1960s and features Ron Carter in an extended solo setting.
Joe Farnsworth's drumming deserves a bit of attention. Far from the iconoclast, Farnsworth prefers to drive the rhythm section. While doing this, he is free to sow off his considerable talent playing the cymbals. "Sweet Poppa" is a great vehicle just for this. It's Prime Time is no boring regurgitation of the same old standards. It is a fresh look at some old songs and a fresh approach to some new ones.