Art Farmer & Bill Evans: Modern Art

A point of interest in this 1958 session is hearing Bill Evans playing soul jazz and hard bop, styles he's not usually associated with


Modern Art was recorded in 1958 and released on United Artists, under Art Farmer’s name alone – Downbeat gave it the maximum five stars. It’s the prelude to the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet which began officially in 1960. The work of this ensemble has rightly been described as involving classy, tasteful invention. “Urbane” is a good adjective, I think.

Evans appears just before his work with Miles Davis on Kind Of Blue – in the Jazztet, McCoy Tyner took his place. The trumpeter’s brother Addison Farmer is on bass and the excellent Dave Bailey is on drums. A highlight is Junior Mance’s composition Jubilation, in a gospel, soul-jazz style. Farmer’s only compositional contribution is the excellent shuffle Mox Nix. Wade Legge’s Cold Breeze is classic hard bop.

One blogger says that Farmer later moved to Europe probably to avoid having to choose between commercial soul jazz and free jazz, adding “This is happy music for uncomplicated enjoyment.” (London Jazz Collector, 14 December 2011) Comments on the post include: “Bill Evans is [an] absolute chameleon … (sounds nothing like his Riverside output); he just delivers swinging rhythms and stays out the way,” and “It totally could be Tommy Flanagan.”

This isn’t quite right – it’s not music for uncomplicated enjoyment, Evans is recognisably the same pianist as on Riverside, and he’s always in a class (or several) above Flanagan. But it’s true that despite the rebranding, it’s Farmer not Evans who’s the leader, and therefore called the shots stylistically. The result is a wonderful and classic album, one of the finest of its era. This reissue includes eight bonus tracks from three group sessions featuring Farmer and Evans – the first two led by Hal McKusick, the third by George Russell. Russell’s in particular are superb.

Mox Nix; Fair Weather; Darn That Dream; The Touch Of Your Lips; Jubilation; Like Someone In Love; I Love You; Cold Breeze; Sing Song; It Never Entered My Mind; Yesterdays; Stratusphunk; The End Of A Love Affair; You’re My Thrill; Ye Hypocrite, Ye Beelzebub; Ezz-Thetic (75.42)
Main personnel: Art Farmer (t); Benny Golson (ts); Bill Evans (p); Addison Farmer (b); Dave Bailey (d). New York, 10-14 September 1958.
Essential Jazz Classics 2602