Art Farmer (NEA Jazz Master)

About Art Farmer


Ron Carter & Art Farmer: Live from Sweet Basil (with Cedar Walton & Billy Higgins – Vinyl

Ron Carter & Art Farmer: Live from Sweet Basil (with Cedar Walton & Billy Higgins) – CD & DVID

NEA Jazz Master Art Farmer (1928-1999) was a jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist, who became known for his smooth and melodic style. In the early 1950s, he moved to New York City and began performing with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Horace Silver, Gerry Mulligan, and Benny Golson. Throughout his career, Farmer recorded more than 50 albums as a leader and over 600 as a sideman, becoming one of the most prolific and respected trumpet players in the history of jazz.

Art Farmer’s Early Career

Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1928, Art Farmer hailed from a musical family, including his twin brother, bassist Addison Farmer. Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, he initially studied piano, violin and the cornet (a brass instrument similar to the trumpet but with a mellower tone quality). Farmer was part of a dance band that played arrangements from the Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Jimmie Lunceford bands. At 15, he was drawn deeper into jazz, inspired by big band trumpet sounds and jam sessions. In 1945 Art and his brother moved to Los Angeles, where they pursued music education, and further explored jazz. In LA Art Farmer played in the bands of Horace Henderson, Floyd Ray and Jimmy Mundy.

Art Farmer

From Los Angeles to New York

With bandleader Johnny Otis, Art Farmer ventured to New York, where he took music lessons and secured a spot in Jay McShann’s band. Back in Los Angeles, he balanced various day jobs while playing with musicians like Benny Carter and Dexter Gordon. His first recordings, including the acclaimed “Farmer’s Market,” featured collaborations with saxophonist Wardell Gray. By 1953, Art had settled in New York, performing with Lionel Hampton’s band alongside jazz greats like Clifford Brown and Quincy Jones. He further honed his skills playing with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Art Blakey.

Art Farmer’s versatility shone as he organized his own quintet with Gigi Gryce, joined Horace Silver and Gerry Mulligan’s groups, and delved into avant-garde experiments. He co-led highly acclaimed The Jazztet with Benny Golson from 1959 to 1962. In the sixties, Farmer formed a quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, solidifying his status as a versatile and respected musician.

The Move To Europe

In 1968 Art Farmer was invited to join a radio orchestra in Vienna, and decided to emigrate to Austria. Farmer ultimately settled in Vienna, where he performed with The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band and joined the Austrian Radio Orchestra. He continued playing with other well-known expatriates such as Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, and Ben Webster. As the orchestra’s music gradually changed in style from jazz to simpler forms and took up more of Farmer’s time, he found that it was getting in the way of his musical ambitions, so he left after three or four years.  Pursuing these ambitions meant that Farmer traveled extensively worldwide. A 1982 revival of The Jazztet, with Golson, led him to play more frequently in the United States than he had over the previous decade. In the 1980s Farmer also created a quintet, featuring saxophonist Clifford Jordan, that toured internationally.

Later Years

From the early 1990s Art Farmer divided his time between Vienna and New York. He had regular gigs with Clifford Jordan at the Sweet Basil Jazz Club and, later, with Ran Blake and Jerome Richardson at the Village Vanguard. Farmer was awarded the Austrian Gold Medal of Merit in 1994. He also recorded extensively as a leader throughout his later career, including some pieces of classical music with US and European orchestras. Farmer’s level of playing even towards the end of his career was noted in a review by Scott Yanow of one of his last recordings, “Silk Road,” from 1996: “the warm-toned and swinging Farmer is consistently the main star, and at age 68 he proves to still be in his prime”. In 1998 and 1999, he toured with his Quintet in celebration of the Academy Award-nominated film “A Great Day in Harlem,” which documents the historic photograph of jazz musicians taken for Esquire Magazine in 1958. In 1999 Farmer was selected as an NEA Jazz Master. Art Farmer died on October 4, 1999.

Art Farmer With Arkadia Records

Art Farmer recorded a number of Albums with Arkadia Records.

The latest addition is Ron Carter & Art Farmer: Live from Sweet Basil (with Cedar Walton & Billy Higgins). Four of the world’s most respected musicians, all honored as NEA Jazz Masters, come together for a memorable night of jazz…live from New York’s Sweet Basil, one of the most prestigious and historic jazz clubs anywhere! This state-of-the-art production marks the first time these legendary musicians have played together on the same stage. The recording is available on Vinyl, CD and DVD.

Art Farmer also appears on these albums:

71903 | 72330 | 70746 | 72004 | 70745 | 70744

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