The Jazztet: Four Classic Albums

Two CDs collect four albums by the sextet which co-leader Art Farmer saw as the antidote to the jam session


The Jazztet made its debut at the Five Spot in November 1959 on the same bill that introduced the Ornette Coleman quartet to New York audiences. Benny Golson, Art Farmer and Curtis Fuller of course were already familiar with each other before the group was formed. Art was featured on Golson’s first date as a leader in 1957 (The New York Scene) and a year later Benny appeared on Farmer’s Modern Art. Curtis Fuller and Golson had been working regularly at the Five Spot and in the late 50s they recorded together on four occasions.

Farmer’s comments at the time about the Jazztet summed up their ambitions for the new group, “This is a musical organization. We want it to sound like that and not like the usual jam session that goes under that name. The jam session can be wonderful but it’s a hell of a thing to try and pull off every night”.

Meet The Jazztet represents the only time that Fuller recorded with the group, which is a pity. There were evidently some financial disagreements but his playing here demonstrates what a loss he was. It Ain’t Necessarily So, Avalon and especially It’s Alright With Me are fine examples of his artistry. Art Farmer is at his melodic best and even on Serenata, which storms along at 80 bpm, he manages to sound thoroughly relaxed. The contrast with Golson’s multi-noted Lucky Thompson-like approach is most effective here and throughout this reissue.

Killer Joe became one of the Jazztet’s signature recordings. It was acknowledged by Manhattan Transfer on their 1985 Vocalese album where they performed Jon Hendricks’ lyrics to the Farmer, Fuller, Golson and McCoy Tyner solos.

Junction on the Birdhouse CD is one of those funky, down-home blues that composer Golson used to specialise in. Darn That Dream is, I believe, Farmer’s first recorded solo on flugelhorn and he carries it off with aplomb. ’Round Midnight is notable for the way Golson incorporates the interlude that Gil Evans wrote for the 1956 Miles Davis quintet recording. The cute Tonk (not to be confused with the Ellington original of the same name) is a Ray Bryant original and is typical of the 60s soul-jazz scene. Ruby, My Dear, one of Monk’s loveliest ballads, features Golson at his most passionate. He premiered Along Came Betty on Art Blakey’s Moanin’ release. I’ve always felt that its songlike quality would benefit from a lyric.

For those with deep pockets Mosaic has released a four-CD set titled The Complete Argo / Mercury / Art Farmer / Benny Golson Jazztet Sessions (Mosaic MD7-225).

CD1: [Meet The Jazztet] (1) Serenata; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Avalon; I Remember Clifford: Blues March; It’s Alright With Me: Park Avenue Petite; Mox Nix; Killer Joe; [At Birdhouse] (2) Junction; Farmer’s Market; Darn That Dream; Shutterbug; ‘Round Midnight; November Afternoon (80.36)
CD2: [Here And Now] (3) Tonk; Rue Prevail; Richie’s Dilemma; Whisper Not; Just In Time; Ruby My Dear; In Love In Vain; Sonny’s Back; (Another Git Together] (4) Space Station; Domino; Another Git Together; Along Came Betty; This Nearly Was Mine; Reggie (79.12)

Art Farmer (t, flh); Benny Golson (ts) with:
(1) Curtis Fuller (tb); McCoy Tyner (p); Addison Farmer (b); Lex Humphries (d). New York, 6, 9, 10 February 1960.
(2) Thomas McIntosh (tb); Cedar Walton (p); Thomas Williams (b); Albert Heath (d). The Birdhouse, Chicago, 15 May 1961.
(3) Grachan Moncur III (tb); Harold Mabern (p); Herbie Lewis (b); Roy McCurdy (d). New York, February, March 1962.
(4) as (3) New York, 28 May, 21 June 1962.
Avid Jazz AMSC 1442