3:29pm

Wed July 6, 2011
Music Reviews

James Farm: Jazz Heavyweights Band Together

In 2009, four busy jazz musicians — saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland — gathered on a rare off day to see what they might cook up together. Out of that came a band they call James Farm, and an album of the same name.

New bands don't come along every day in jazz. The reasons are mostly practical: Gifted musicians like the members of James Farm are in demand and would have to turn down lots of lucrative work to commit full-time to one single enterprise. But listen to these unusual compositions, and to the lively exchanges that erupt inside of them. Even though these players can only make a partial commitment of time to James Farm, they're fully committed musically.

Redman says that James Farm is truly a band. No one person was responsible for all the decisions on the album — everyone contributed compositions and ideas. The four built time into the recording schedule for discussion, as well as for trial and error. After the first few pieces were finished, Redman says it was clear to the four that they'd arrived at that rare thing: a band identity. You can hear it in the lyrical, singing melodies, as well as in the carefully textured accompaniments.

Incredibly, James Farm only played about 20 gigs before recording this debut. According to Redman, there are only sketchy plans for the future; everybody's busy. Here's hoping that the four manage to connect often enough to continue evolving as a band. The vibrant conversation they've begun with this album can go at least a few steps further.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In the world of jazz, it's rare to find a band where everyone collaborates and chips in with the composing. The band called James Farm is an exemption.

Music critic Tom Moon has this review of the group and the album that bears its name.

(Soundbite of music)

TOM MOON: My first reaction to James Farm: Wow, a band playing together, chasing a fairly specific idea about improvised music.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: New bands don't come along every day in jazz. The reasons are mostly practical. Gifted musicians like these - saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland - are in demand. They'd have to turn down lots of lucrative work to commit full time to one single enterprise.

But listen to these unusual compositions and the lively exchanges that erupt inside of them. Even though these players can only make a partial time commitment to James Farm, they're fully committed musically.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: Saxophonist Redman says that James Farm is truly a band. No one person was responsible for all the decisions. Everyone contributed compositions and ideas. The quartet built time into the recording schedule for discussion and also for trial and error. After they completed the first few pieces, Redman says it was clear they'd arrived at that rare thing: a band identity. And you can hear it in the lyrical, singing melodies and the carefully textured accompaniments behind them.

(Soundbite of music)

MOON: Incredibly, James Farm only played about 20 gigs before recording this debut. Redman says there are sketchy plans for the future because everybody is busy. So here's hoping that the four manage to connect often enough to continue evolving as a band. It seems like the vibrant conversation they've begun here can go at least a few steps further.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: The band and the album are called James Farm. Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(Soundbite of music)

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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