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Remembering Art Farmer

Lazaro Vega By

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This interview was first published at All About Jazz in November 1999 and is part of our ongoing effort to archive pre-database material.

This interview was originally broadcast at the time on Blue Lake Public Radio; portions of this interview appeared in an advance article published by the Grand Rapids Press.

Lazaro Vega: How long is this tour in the U.S.?

Art Farmer: My tour is going until the 31st of October, and then I'm going back over to Europe. As far as I know I'll be over in Europe for the rest of the year. I have some things to do over there in German, France, Belgium, and Finland.

LV: Do you have a family in Vienna?

AF: Yes I do.

LV: Do you have children?

AF: Yes, I have one 16 years old. My wife is born in Vienna, and my son is also born there.

LV: I've never been there but I know people that live there; they vacation in the region I live in now. At home they see some of the greatest music in the world.

AF: That's right, there's a lot of great music being played there. That's one of the nicer things about the city.

LV: Do they appreciate you as a jazz player there?

AF: Yes. Yes, there's a very good jazz audience in Vienna. There's a good audience in Austria in general, in Europe in general.

One of the things that I like about living and working in Europe that's not the case over here so much is that there's more activity in the smaller cities. Like you can go into a town in Europe that has a population of maybe 10,000 people and manage to play a concert there and there will be, say, like a thousand people will come to the concert. You're not just restricted to the larger cities.

Here in the United States I'm playing at a place now, here in New York City, called Sweet Basil. This is only one of the places in New York City, there are quite a few here, that are well attended. But once you leave New York City the next stop is generally Chicago, and then after that it's all the way out to California as far as playing in a club. There might be one club in a town. But all these nice sized towns, say, like Pittsburgh or Cleveland, even Detroit, there's not that much going on as far as the size is concerned. If you go into smaller towns it's actually zero in most cases.

LV: That has to be comforting to know you can put things together like that in Europe. So you're playing Sweet Basil right now.

AF: Yes, I'm in my second week at Sweet Basil now.

LV: I was there last November.what do you think of that place?

AF: Well, the audience is very nice. I think physically it's not so comfortable for the players because we don't have anyplace to go when we have a break. But other than that, what? Then it's a hard room for drummers, because you have a brick wall on one side and a wooden wall on the other side and it seems like the drum sound is just magnified there. So the drummer sounds louder than they would sound in a place that had sound deadening material.

LV: When I went there I stood and wondered how they ever fit the Gil Evans Orchestra all up there on Monday nights. That made me curious. I had a great time seeing jazz in New York.

AF: Yes, well, this is the greatest place in the world for jazz because you can go out and you can find so much going on in any one given night.

LV: Who are you playing with there? Is it the quintet with Fred Hersch?

AF: No, it's the quintet with Clifford Jordan on tenor and soprano, the pianist that's been working with me for about the past couple of years is James Williams; and Rufus Reid on the bass. And I have a drummer named Tony Reedus, who's like a nephew of James Williams. This group with the exception of the drummer is the group that's recorded the last two albums that I made.

LV: Sure, on Contemporary, with Helen Keane. That and the record on Soul Note are beautiful. I love them. Especially that one, I like this "Flashback." Man, that's a great composition.

AF: Oh yes. Thanks, thanks.

LV: I heard you at the Chicago Jazz Festival with the Jazztet a couple of years ago. Do you remember that? You guys (lit the house up). I hadn't heard that kind of bop played with that much intensity in a long time. That was Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums?

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