Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"It's a bit like four of the best in the business just called a "session" one day, but instead of standards, they each brought in their own music. And then they workshopped the arrangements and ironed out the kinks on the road, and only then put it on tape. So, instead of unsure and undercooked, it sounds taut and confident. It's one thing to play original music with others; it's another to have absorbed it over time, as a cohesive unit. And this band's labor has clearly proven fruitful." -NPR
"The four-man collective known as James Farm has a point to make about jazz in the contemporary sphere. Or maybe it’s a few different points, deftly interlaced. The group’s self-titled debut on Nonesuch is a model of dazzling proficiency as applied to the articulation of a mood. The stylistic palette attests to the pull of a conscientiously eclectic record collection. Cohesiveness registers as a guiding impulse rather than as a natural byproduct. It’s all very earnest and determined." -New York Times
Down Beat (p.47) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Redman remains commanding and fastidious....[The material] surges and ebbs according to an unpredictable but formal rigor, relying on tempo shifts, swooping double-time flights and similar devices."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.101) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] rich sonic tapestry packed with fascinating textures and absorbing group interplay."
Personnel: Joshua Redman (saxophone); Aaron Parks (piano); Eric Harland (drums).
Audio Mixer: Dave Darlington.
Recording information: The Clubhouse, Rhinebeck, NY (08/26/2010-08/29/2010).
Editors: Dave Darlington; Eli Walker; Joshua Redman.
Photographer: Blaise Howard.
James Farm is a relatively new quartet whose players have worked together in various groupings and contexts over the course of the last half-decade or so. Best known, of course, is veteran saxophonist Joshua Redman, who has been a fellow member of the SF Jazz Collective with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Matt Penman. That rhythm section also appeared on pianist Aaron Parks' stellar Invisible Cinema in 2008. The tunes feature selections by each member. There are three each from Redman, Parks, and Penman, and one by Harland. What they have in common is a clearly defined pattern of charting for the ensemble, and each tune makes room for solid exploration by soloists and for seemingly spontaneous group interplay. Redman's "Polywog" is easily recognizable as post-bop, with its long head, kinetic lyric, and upbeat tempo. Parks' "Bijou" and "Unravel" are elliptical ballads that could have appeared on Invisible Cinema: the former, with its lilting, repetitive melody and country-flavored chords, and the latter with its nocturnal blues tinge. Penman's "1981" features Parks playing a Prophet-5 synth in a skittering, pulsing, near-rockist piece, in which the bassist/composer and Harland push the group through several sets of knotty changes. Speaking of which, Harland's "I-10" is a fine collision course of polyrhythms and harmonic expansiveness; though somewhat brief, it travels -- by way of a sprint -- a long way between head, bridge, and improvisational passages. There's some muscular work by Redman and intense arpeggiatic exchanges between him and Parks. The pianist's "Chronos," at just under nine minutes, is the set's longest cut, and the one that offers the most dynamic contrasts: from a brooding, almost ominous piano intro, to an all-out wail by Redman, with Harland and Penman egging him on, to another moody piano shift toward a near pastoral bridge and conclusion. Parks plays not only piano, but synth and pump organ on the track. Penman's set closer, "Low Fives," is an impressionistic ballad with subtly inventive cymbal work by Harland, and Redman playing the bluesy, low-key melody on soprano. James Farm offers real compositional depth and spirited, sophisticated improvisation, making for a deeply satisfying listen and a promising debut. ~ Thom Jurek