Joe Farnsworth : City of Sounds Review
Joe Farnsworth is releasing a live album recorded in New York City at the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club with a theme of New York City’s deep jazz history called City of Sounds. Farnsworth explains some of his inspiration behind the title, “I went on a Black Lives Matter march from Inwood through Harlem that ended up at a park on the West Side Highway,” he recalls. “As we marched, people were flying the flags of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and you’d hear salsa music playing from their windows. Then you went through Harlem and heard funk and soul and rap music. Everyone was cheering for the same thing, but there were all these different sounds. You can’t get that anywhere else in the world.” He also explains his feelings about the history of jazz in New York City, “People ask all the time if it’s still relevant to come to New York anymore,” Farnsworth concludes. “Without a doubt, if you were to spend a year here, you would be a better musician. Why? Charlie Parker’s not here, but you still feel him. Monk’s not here, but you still feel him. Their presence flows through the streets. It flows through the people. It’s the ultimate power source.” Farnsworth is joined by the fabulous Kenny Barron on piano and the steady swing of Peter Washington on double-bass.
The set starts with a Barron original “New York Attitude.” Instantly the trio digs into the swing feel as each player is interactive and builds the song together. Farnsworth favors a sizzle ride, as many Be-Bop players do, which creates a wash of sound within the trio. His accents on the cymbal are very clear, though, and his primary conversational tool is his snare. Barron is a powerhouse. His lines are fluid, his harmony is diverse while still maintaining the harmonic progression of the song, and his time is like a swinging freight train. Generally, an excellent tune for bop drumming.
“The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” showcases Washington’s linear basslines and Barron’s lyrical touch on the piano. Jazz drummers will especially want to tune into Farnsworth’s nimble brushwork as it is some of the best in the biz in the straight-ahead jazz circle. For me, this is Farnsworth at his best; his creativity and interaction with the brushes are excellent. This trio obviously has the jazz language down and communicates it effortlessly.
City of Sounds is an energetic and musical love set by three outstanding performers. Barron is always profound, and his playing is majestic and robust. Washington’s bass growls with a steady pulse and agility. Farnsworth is an excellent drummer, and this album is another high point in his vast record catalog. I am not a fan of the sizzle ride, but that is just my preference. It seems to wash out the details in a trio setting to my ears, but that does not take away from the trio’s power. Also, I found myself wanting more double-bass in the mix when Washington plays in the lower register on the up-temp selections when the trio is at a louder dynamic.
City of Sounds
October 1, 2021
Smoke Sessions Records