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NPR First Listen: James Farm

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Monday April 11, 2011

From NPR

First Listen: James Farm, ‘JAMES FARM
By: Patrick Jarenwattananon

James Farm is the newish band featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland. If you take the first letters of their first names, that makes JAME; it’s unclear where the S FARM comes in, though it might make a good metaphor for the whole of this band making more sense than the sum of its parts.

Okay, so first, meet the parts. Joshua Redman is the smooth-toned, slightly greasy tenorman (positive, not pejorative) who’s recorded jazz on major labels for nearly two decades; he’s a bit more understated than usual here. Aaron Parks is the youngest member by about 10 years, but his voice ripened early; his dense chords, fluid right-hand contours and sense of harmonic movement permeate this album. Matt Penman turns up on many great records; his three tunes, especially the shape-shifting and head-nodding “Polliwog,” highlight his underheard compositional abilities. And Eric Harland is among the most commanding drummers to be found anywhere; you can’t find him not swinging, even if he’s layering all manner of other noise over a rock beat.

Redman is the best-known member here, but don’t ascribe ownership to him. James Farm is expressly a collective enterprise in which each member contributes tunes. It looks a little bit odd at first blush — almost a bit random, like, why this grouping, now? — and then you remember that this is the same rhythm section as on Parks’ latest album, Invisible Cinema, and that the sax-bass-drum team worked together in the SFJAZZ Collective for years. Basically, the four have put in serious time together, even before touring under their agrarian moniker.

To read more and listen to the album in its entirety click here