Art Farmer trumpets the flumpet

May 16, 1995
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NEWLN: UPI Arts & Entertainment -- JazzNEWLN:(650)NEWLN:(release at will)

KEN FRANCKLING United Press International

Art Farmer stuck his trumpet in the closet in 1963, switching to the darker and somewhat richer sound of the flugelhorn for his distinctive and melodic jazz playing. Now the flugelhorn is on the shelf as well, as Farmer enjoys the best of both brass instruments on a hybrid horn called the flumpet. The new instrument was made for him by Dave Monette, considered the foremost maker of and tinkerer with instruments for the world's top jazz and classical brass players. 'It's the best of all worlds for me,' the Vienna-based Farmer said. 'It has a certain darkness to it that I like. If you play in the high register it sounds more like a trumpet. In the lower register, it sounds more like a flugelhorn. 'Conversely, it has a certain degree of projection that the flugel lacks and a certain darkness that the trumpet doesn't have. It is intended to bring out the best of both instruments.' Much like the grand intent of his horn, Farmer has a knack for bringing out the best in a song. He's a highly melodic player who opts for well-chosen notes to tell his musical stories. That became apparent to jazz fans when he formed the highly respected Jazztet with saxophonist Benny Golson in 1959. Although it disbanded in 1962, the group was revived in 1982 for several tours and recordings.

On his current American tour, Farmer stopped in Boston last week with a quintet, which for three nights was co-led with trumpeter Tom Harrell. Shifting between flugelhorn and trumpet, Harrell displayed an uncanny ability to harmonize against Farmer's melodic lead in ways that enriched both players' sounds. They were first paired on Farmer's 1994 Arabesque recording called 'The Company I Keep,' a fine session with support from saxophonist Ron Blake, pianist Geoff Keezer, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Carl Allen. Farmer, 67, says he asked Harrell to record with him last year because he wanted to make a recording reminiscent of ones he made early in his career when he did a series of multiple trumpet albums with Donald Byrd, including 'Two Trumpets' and 'Trumpets All Out.' 'It was time to go back to that,' Farmer said. 'I always feel I play the best I can, but when I'm fronting with another trumpet player, that takes it to some other level. It's not really a competition, but you never want to be outdone in comparison to the other horn player up there.' This week, Farmer headed into the studio in New York to make a new recording with trombonist Slide Hampton and Ron Blake sharing the front line. He expects it to be released later this year. During his extended visit to the United States from his home base in Austria, Farmer also worked on a Gerry Mulligan session and recorded with jazz-influenced pop singer Michael Franks. Farmer moved to Europe in 1968 in large part because there was more work for serious jazz musicians than in the United States at the height of the rock music revolution. Europe has long considered jazz a high art form, a status that it has achieved only peripherally in the United States, although Farmer says things are getting better. 'People really come to listen these days. You can hear a pin drop in the clubs during our performances. Europe has been like that for many years. So the U.S. jazz scene has greatly improved in terms of audiences,' Farmer said. 'The problem is that there are not enough places to play anymore.' He is also encouraged by the abundance of fine young trumpet players joining the jazz ranks. 'They are very serious and they want to play the horn,' he said. 'They have mastered the instrument and learned the music but need to remember that not everything can be taught. 'The thing they need to add to their playing is some years in their lives and what comes with that. You just can't tell a story if there is no story to tell.' (release at will)

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