Art Farmer - trumpet, flugelhorn; Benny Golson - tenor sax; Duke Pearson - piano; Bernard McKinney - trombone, euphonium; Addison Farmer - bass; Lex Humphries - drums
The Jazztet's appearance at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival came on the heels of the band's highly successful debut, Meet the Jazztet, released just two months earlier on the Argo label. Co-led by trumpeter Art Farmer, a former member of Horace Silver's quintet, and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1958-1959, this definitive hard bop outing quickly grabbed the attention of jazz fans on the strength of Golson's beautiful ballad "I Remember Clifford" (his tribute to the late trumpeter Clifford Brown, who had died in a tragic car accident in 1956) and also due to two catchy numbers in "Blues March" (a tune that Golson had introduced in 1958 during his tenure with the Jazz Messengers) and the infectious, riff-oriented "Killer Joe," which has since become a jumping off point for endless jazz jams.
The Jazztet kicks of its June 30th set at Newport with a relaxed, soulful rendition of "It Ain't Necessarily So," a George and Ira Gershwin tune introduced in the 1935 production of Porgy & Bess. Farmer's muted trumpet solo is exquisite and underscored by Lex Humphries loose, syncopated swing beat. Duke Pearson's piano solo is unfortunately barely audible here, but McKinney offers a brilliant trombone solo that is brimming with lyricism and unpredictable note choices. Farmer is prominently featured on a beautiful open horn solo on a rendition of Golson's minor key ballad "The Portrait," a melancholy number which sounds remarkably similar to Golson's "Park Avenue Petite" from Meet the Jazztet, and which also features some burnished tones from McKinney on euphonium. Switching to trombone, McKinney steps to the front on the bristling hard bop burner "Bean Bag," which also features some scorching tenor work from Golson and an exhilarating drum solo from Humphries. Their rendition of "Killer Joe" includes Golson's clever spoken word introduction about a fictional jivester character he describes as someone who "wears a very neatly pressed double-breasted, form-fitting pin-striped suit with a chain that dangles from under one side of his coat…who likes to play the horses, who is most certainly a ladies man and is very much against manual labor." Farmer's muted solo on this hip number is ultra-cool, as is McKinney's buttery-smooth trombone solo. Pearson's piano solo here is also more audible than on previous tracks.
They close out their Newport set in rousing fashion with Art Farmer's shuffle-swing number "Mox Nix," featuring some strong solo work from the trumpeter. Golson rises to the occasion with a galvanizing tenor solo while McKinney contributes another slick trombone solo based in the facile stylings of pioneering bop trombonist J.J. Johnson. Pearson follows with a nimble piano solo to put a cap on the swinging proceedings.
Born on August 21, 1928, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, trumpeter Art Farmer gravitated to Los Angeles in 1945, where he performed - sometimes with his twin brother Addison Farmer on bass - on Central Avenue, the city's post-war equivalent of New York's 52nd Street, with the likes of Johnny Otis, Jay McShann, Benny Carter, and Gerald Wilson. He worked with tenor sax great Wardell Gray from 1951-1952, before touring Europe in 1953, with Lionel Hampton's orchestra, playing alongside fellow trumpeter Clifford Brown. After moving to New York in 1954, he worked with tenor saxophonist-composer Gigi Gryce for two years before joining Horace Silver's quintet in 1956 and then Gerry Mulligan's band in 1958. After co-leading the Jazztet with Benny Golson from 1959-1962, Farmer had an influential group with guitarist Jim Hall from 1962-1964 (they later had a reunion in the late '70s). In 1968, Farmer relocated to Vienna, where he collaborated with the Austrian Radio Orchestra and also played throughout Europe with the pioneering bebop drummer and expatriate Kenny Clarke in the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band. Farmer continued to work as a leader through the '70s, '80s, and '90s in several small group settings, recording for the CTI, Soul Note, Contemporary, and Arabesque labels.
Farmer's compatriot Benny Golson was born on January 25, 1929, in the jazz-rich city of Philadelphia, where he attended high school with such future jazz stars as John Coltrane, Red Garland, Percy Heath, and Philly Joe Jones. After graduating from Howard University, he worked on the R&B scene with singer-saxophonist Bull Moose Jackson before hooking up with pianist and influential bop composer Tadd Dameron in 1953. There followed stints with Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, and Earl Bostic before he came to prominence in Dizzy Gillespie's big band from 1956-1958. During his tenure with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers from 1958-1959, Golson introduced such classic compositions as "Stablemates," "Whisper Not," "Along Came Betty," "Killer Joe," and "Blues March" before forming the Jazztet with Farmer in 1959. While he focused primarily on studio work through the '60s and '70s, composing music for such television shows as Ironside, Room 222, M*A*S*H, and The Six Million Dollar Man,, he returned to the jazz scene in 1977 with Killer Joe on Columbia. In 1983 he re-organized the Jazztet and continued to record in small band settings through the '80s and '90s for the Dreyfus, Evidence, Arkadia, Denon, and Milestone labels. In 1995, Golson received the NEA Jazz Masters Award of the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2004, he had a cameo appearance in the Steven Spielberg film The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. In January, 2009, Golson was feted in an 80th birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. His most recent recording was 2009's New Time, New Tet on the Concord Jazz. Golson continues to perform as a leader throughout the world. (Milkowski)