Thursday, June 09, 2011

James Farm - NYC Jazz Record

James Farm - self-titled

James Farm, a jazz ‘supergroup’ saddled with an
unmemorable name but impeccable musicianship,
originally formed under the direction of Joshua
Redman for the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival. The oneoff
quartet with pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt
Penman and omnipresent drummer Eric Harland has
ended up, two years later, capturing an impressive set
of originals - each a portrait of their creator. The selftitled
album is coated in a layer of studio wizardry that
only a slightly-above-average jazz budget can afford
but is, at its core, an acoustic recording that draws
from a diverse assortment of influences.

The album is bookended by two Penman
compositions. “Coax” is the propulsive opener,
anchored by prepared piano and a militaristic snare
drum that highlights Redman’s breathless flights over
controlled cacophony. With its spacious arrangement
and jangly percussion, closer “Low Fives” is a muchneeded
reprieve from the intensity found throughout
the record. Redman’s “Polliwog”, in all its pop-styled
splendor, rides out like an ‘80s radio hit featuring a
theremin-esque whistle from Penman. With a sullen
decay and modal melody Parks’ “Chronos” features a
series of rapid-fire solos from Redman and Harland.
“Star Crossed” finds Redman slow-roasting his tenor
while the rest of the trio couldn’t be more relaxed but
“I-10”, Harland’s contribution, does not so much
reflect driving down that transcontinental interstate as
it does running across it. The furious unison lines,
effects-laden drums and abrupt tape cuts will get
anyone’s heart racing. The following track, Parks’
“Unravel”, cools everybody off by giving Penman a
bossa beat and the spotlight.

Every member plays with an unrelenting urgency,
each note driven to the edge of sonic purity. Despite
the studio polish, the compositions, interplay and
production combine to make for a compelling album
that lives up to expectations. It will be interesting to
see where they take it from here.

James Farm @ New York City Jazz Record

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