Recorded at Hip Pocket Recording Studios, New York, on January 11th and 12th, 1994
Release Date: July 14th, 1994
Re-release date: March 5th 2009
Availabilty: CD, MP3 download
"The Company I Keep" brought together two of the great exponents of melodic Coltrane-influenced trumpet playing – Art Farmer and Tom Harrell – placed them in a tight sextet that included the excellent Ron Blake and Geoffrey Keezer and produced one of the best jazz albums of the 90's. The only surprise is that the album, recorded for the tiny Arabesque Jazz label, has for so long been unavailable. This is now remedied in this re-release, made the same time as the re-release Art Farmer's Arabesque Jazz albums "Silk Road" and "The Meaning Of Art".
The personnel are: Art Farmer (flumpet), Ron Blake (soprano & tenor saxophones), Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn), Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Kenny Davis (bass), Carl Allen (drums).
There are versions of two standards, Duke Ellington's TGTT (Too Good To Title)" and the Bill Evans/ Gene Lees composition "Turn Out The Stars" with the remaining tracks as original compositions, including one from Fritz Pauer who had featured in earlier Art Farmer line-ups.
Geoffrey Keezer, then just 24, is inspired throughout, as for example on "Santana" where his blocked piano chords and involving solo underscore fine playing from all three of the horns.
Ron Blake, who went on to feature in Christian McBride's band and to make impressive albums of his own such as the recent "Shayari", is excellent on soprano and tenor sax.
But of course, it is the interaction between Art Farmer and Tom Harrell that is of such interest.
The most notable observation is that the nuance and understatement that so charactersises the approach of both players was not about be thrown away just because this was a 'meeting of the greats'. Both are first and foremost part of the sextet; there is no showboating.
Art Farmer was nearing the end of a long and illustrious career (he died five years after this recording was made, aged 71) and at times sounds somewhat weakened but his musical intelligence carries him through. Tom Harrell, approaching mid career but fighting as always against the paranoid schizophrenia that has dogged his time as a performer, is a sympathetic and creative presence.
The relationship is inspiring throughout but can perhaps be best heard on the ballads "Beyond" or "Turn Out The Stars" where both solo with real poise and beauty of expression and where the harmonization of the horns, a notable feature of the whole album, is especially poignant.
A highly recommended album that deserves to benefit from this timely re-release.
To preview and purchase "The Company I Keep: Art Farmer Meets Tom Harrell" on CD at amazon:
To preview and purchase "The Company I Keep: Art Farmer Meets Tom Harrell" on MP3 at amazon:
Read our review of Tom Harrell "Prana Dance"
Read our review of Tom Harrell "Light On"
Read our review of Ron Blake "Shayari"
Read our review of Joe Locke Geoffrey Keezer Group "Live In Seattle"
Read our review of Art Farmer "Silk Road"
Art Farmer biography
Tom Harrell biography
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