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Disc reviews: James Farm, “City Folk”

Jazz

James Farm

“City Folk”

[Nonesuch]

3.5 stars

Here is the second first-rate disc by one of the more impressive jazz quartets to come together in the past few years. Call it an all-star group if you want, even though bassist Matt Penman and pianist Aaron Parks didn’t quite come into the group sporting the same star pedigree as tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman and drummer Eric Harland.

They are, nevertheless, that good and that much equally responsible for the excellence of their group’s music.

They came together at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2009 and their first disc came out in 2011. The tunes are written by all members – three by Redman, Penman and Parks, one by Harland. So unified are they in aim that anyone trying to guess which tunes were written by which musician (or even, for that matter, by the same musician), would find it impossible.

Their compositions virtually have a group identity the way the music of Weather Report did. Almost all of the compositions are modal with a vengeance and designed to feature melody statements by tenor and soprano saxophonist Redman and his rhythm section.

Unlike Weather Report though, only the Penman composition “Aspirin” features pianist Parks playing an electric instrument.

There is, too, an emotional progress to the music from dark to light before it’s over. Group exultation, if you will – with a fair amount to be exultant about.

– Jeff Simon

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