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Joe Farnsworth : In What Direction Are You Headed? Review

Joe Farnsworth : In What Direction Are You Headed? Review

Stepping into New Territories: The Evolution of Joe Farnsworth in In What Direction Are You Headed?


joe-farnsworth-2-cdIn a notable departure from tradition, jazz hard bop drummer Joe Farnsworth, well-renowned for his dynamic drumming and formidable technique, steps into new territory with his third release via Smoke Sessions Records, In What Direction Are You Headed?. The album deliberately explores modern jazz territories and sees Farnsworth evolving from his hard bop foundations into the more expansive modern jazz soundscape.

The record shines with an all-star quintet featuring talents from Farnsworth’s generation and rising stars from the younger class. The ensemble includes guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, keyboardist Julius Rodriguez, and bassist Robert Hurst. The decision to feature these artists feels energetic and stimulating, indicative of Farnsworth’s open-mindedness and eagerness to combine the past with the present jazz realm.

The opening track, “Terra Nova,” a modern composition by Rosenwinkel, has a straight-eight feel that showcases Farnsworth’s mastery of time in the richly textured context of modern jazz. Rosenwinkel and Wilkins deliver solos teeming with a strong sense of direction and modern jazz language, to which Farnsworth responds in kind, his drumming mirroring the energy and progressiveness of their performances. This interaction is indicative of the modern jazz tendency for musicians to have a more interactive musical dialogue, illustrating how Farnsworth is successfully adapting his hard bop foundation into a broader, more contemporary framework. Rosenwinkel’s compositions and artistry provide a whole new palette of sounds and ideas for Farnsworth to engage with, making the selection a fantastic opener and enticing us to listen further.

“Filters” exemplifies his evolving approach as the ensemble performs this Rosenwinkel composition in a varying straight and swing eight styles. Farnsworth’s ability to maintain the swing feel on the ride cymbal while his supportive snare commentary harks back to his hard bop roots, but his more expansive patterns and fills across the kit hint at a modern jazz approach. This marriage of the new and familiar provides a fresh spin on the traditional jazz rhythm. Another notable change is his toned-down sizzle ride. This adjustment reflects his shift towards the modern jazz aesthetic and enhances the overall clarity of the ensemble’s sound, allowing every instrument to shine without overpowering the mix. You can further read my thoughts on this in my review of his City of Sounds album.

In What Direction Are You Headed?  marks a significant and exciting evolution in Joe Farnsworth’s musical journey. Balancing his hard bop foundation with a fresh exploration into modern jazz landscape, Farnsworth’s meticulous drumming meets the audacious talents of his contemporaries head-on. From the modernistic compositions of Rosenwinkel and the progressive energy of Wilkins to Farnsworth’s versatile rhythmic approaches, the album is evidence of his open-minded exploration and adaptation. While staying true to his roots, Farnsworth confidently embraces innovation, marrying tradition with progression to present an album that shines brightly as a beacon in his evolving discography.


Joe Farnsworth: Website

Artist Name

Joe Farnsworth

Album Title

In What Direction Are You Headed?

Release Date

May 19, 2023


Smoke Sessions Records

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Steven Miller
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