James Farm: Parks, Harland, Penman and Redman Push The Limit of What Defines A “Jazz” Super Group.

Refection: On December 11, I missed my first flight to Philly to catch night two of the James Farm world premiere. Chris’ Jazz Cafe, on Samson rarely caters this degree of a talent. The entire block seemed to be at a heightened sense of  importance. I was able to snag a 5:45pm out of JAX, which put me into Philadelphia International at 7:30pm. I had to catch an 8:00pm show. The cabby left me off at 13 and Samson at 7:45. Enough time to chat with friends and family,snag a cup of french onion soup and find a safe place for my luggage.

The group features the indie established Aaron Parks (piano), intellectually neo-cool Matt Penman (bass), vigorously driven Eric Harland (drums) and the relentless Joshua Redman (tenor). Judging by all of the quartet’s glued eyes to the sheet music, it would be safe to assume  that the conception of the performance was in its youthful stages. Despite this crutch the band moved flawlessly through the material. Most tunes we straight 8th driven, most heavily by Harland’s cornucopia of cymbals. The tunes grooved and funked and released and captured.

Sporting jeans, converse kicks, a baggy button down and a pair of plastic flashy ray-ban imitators, its easy to think of Eric Harland as the slyest cat on the block. His conversations with Parks across the tiny bandstand were constantly on edge and when contemporary contrapuntal counterpoint fused into the piano, Harland would easily pull from a ray of imitative rebuttals.

Redman is and will remain my personal favorite tenor player on the scene today.  From the fluidity in his ideas, his dexterity and limitless technique to his quest for rich, rhythmic and soulful melody are a handful of ways he grasps my ear. I was unable to capture his true essence that evening, or the moment he did circular breathing with a soprano over a hauntingly droopy middle eastern lament.

Unfortunately, my place for the show inhibited my lens from accessing Parks & Harland.  I was able to capture Penman during one of his captivating solos. During the set break, I spoke with Parks about the music. I had taken a photograph of his trio at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in May 2009. I greeted him and presented him with the original print of this photo (seen in the bottom left) after some complimentary words and brief conversation. I wish I had asked him the one still troubling question: “Who the hell is James Farm?”

The group is recording in the studio soon and pushing is  their unique sound, a new intellectually driven form of improvisation, that breathes like 20th century classical with the fire of New York . It makes consider a new order to  the “third stream” concept, previously perfected by “MJQ”.  Had it been redirected and adapted into the sound of “James Farm”

Dig this:



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