Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jazz At The Cross(over)roads:Joe Farrell

This one goes out to the Record Feind

Blame it on The Beatles, blame it on the elevation of jazz to college musiccurricula, or blame it on free jazz (with the civil rights battle resulting in law, the search for freedom moved inward), but no matter how you look at it, jazz went through some changes around 1965.  Some called it a death (not for the first time or the last), but the facts were, that musicians had to make choices.

One could go the academic route, the hardcore free jazz route, the fusion/electric route, or the soul jazz route (or maybe a combination of all four). Cities that had strong jazz scenes started to see them die out, music funding began dropping out of school budgets, and a decline in the overall commercial and cultural footprint of jazz began to shrink.  Of course though, folks did not stop playing jazz.

Saxman Joe Farrell moved to New York in '59 and played with Maynard Ferguson, Slide Hampton, Thad Jones, Elvin Jones and Charles Mingus, earning a good rep as a versatile reed man. During the 60's he played in both jazz and rock sessions, a few produced by Creed Taylor, for whom Joe recorded his first date as a leader, Follow Your Heart (1970).

Early on CTI (the label Creed Taylor started in 1967) records were on the cutting edge of post hard bop. Not free jazz, but not compromising at all. They sold decently too, featuring top players like Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, and Elvin Jones. By the time Farrell cut his debut (he was also playing in Return to Forever at the time), elements of funk,fusion, and rock (commercial forces that Creed Taylor could not let pass) were gradually becoming the sound of choice for jazz musicians (interested in cutting records).

Straight Jazz" aficionados and critics might've bristled at the electric guitars and pianos, but these records were putting food on the table and leaving behind a legacy that wouldn't really be recognized until the hip hop era, as progressive samplers found funky beats galore on these records.  Joe Farrell had the chops to play anything and this is where he was at in the 70's. 

Moon Germs (1972)
Bass - Stanley Clarke
Drums - Jack DeJohnette
Piano - Herbie Hancock
Soprano Saxophone, Flute - Joe Farrell 
Inoculate for Moon Germs here... 
There's a bit of a glitch on Time's Lie..sorry

Sage Francis sampling the cut Moon Germs

 Upon This Rock (1974)

Bass - Herb Bushler
Drums - Jim Madison
Guitar - Joe Beck
Saxophone [Tenor, Soprano], Flute - Joe Farrell

 Black Sheep Sampling the cut Upon this Rock


Lafayette said...

Ah, there you are! :D


Cody B said...

Open for business Mr. Lafayette.

Record Fiend said...


I just finished checking both of these out. I'm no jazz authority, so I must confess that I don't think I'd even heard of Joe Farrell before you turned me on to him.

That's a pretty stellar lineup on Moon Germs. I'm a big fan of Herbie Hancock's early 1970s output on Warners and Columbia, and it was interesting to hear him in a somewhat different context. Jack DeJohnette is amazing throughout. At times, the album seems to be on the verge of free jazz.

Upon This Rock delivered the goods as promised. Farrell's playing sounds a little more dynamic here, perhaps spurred on by Beck's hyperkinetic guitar. All four tracks are killers, but my favorite is "Seven Seas."

I appreciate the musical education.

All the best,


Cody B said...

Great comment.
I am definitely not a jazz expert.
The Record Feind is the educating expert on these internets, but thank you.

As far as Joe Farrell goes, I just heard Moon Germs for the first time the day I posted. I was pleased and a little annoyed I hadn't heard it before.

As with most jazz that I get these days, there is usually a funk/sampling connection there. Mostly 'cause that's where my head is at.

The critical acclaim meter for Joe leans heavily toward earlier records like Moon Germs...and I get that, but like you Feind, Upon This Rock is my fave (for the drum breaks alone, but overall as well)of the two.