Recent Listening: Art Farmer and Gigi Gryce


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Art Farmer-Gigi Gryce Quintet: Complete 1954-1955 Prestige Recordings (Fresh Sound). In 1953, Farmer arrived in New York from California with Lionel Hampton's band, Gryce from his Fulbright studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Honneger. The next year they began a two-year collaboration in a quintet that amalgamated their instrumental skills with approaches to form and harmony that eased away from the rigidities of bebop.

Farmer, with his lyricism and relatively soft tone, already stood apart from the pack of bop trumpeters. Gryce was a Charlie Parker alto saxophonist who had a nice way with a melody and colored his improvisations with the deep knowledge of harmony that characterized his innovative compositional technique. Some of the fourteen Gryce compositions in this compilation became minor classics, among them “Social Call," “Satellite" and “Capri." “Nica's Tempo" is a jazz standard. “The Infant's Song" should be.

As fine as Gryce's soloing is here, it is Farmer's work that lingers in the mind, and not only for his celebrated melodic qualities. His command of the instrument and fiery blowing at fast tempos remind us what a complete trumpeter he was early in his career. His work on the quicksilver “I Got Rhythm" variant called “Deltitnu" is a prime example. Horace Silver does a fair amount of scene stealing with the forthright swing and humor of his piano solos. Freddie Redd and Duke Jordan are the other pianists; Percy Heath and Addison Farmer the bassists; Kenny Clarke, Art Taylor and Philly Joe Jones the bassists. In addition to their other attractions, six of the tracks benefit from the effortless keyboard touch and inventiveness that made Jordan the envy of other pianists.

This single disc combines three sessions that originally appeared on the Prestige albums When Farmer Met Gryce and Art Farmer Quintet. Both of those are still available individually.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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