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REVIEW: James Farm is a "Model of Dazzling Proficiency"

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Tuesday April 26, 2011

From The New York Times

JAMES FARM
By: Nate Chinen

The four-man collective known as James Farm has a point to make about jazz in the contemporary sphere. Or maybe it’s a few different points, deftly interlaced. The group’s self-titled debut on Nonesuch is a model of dazzling proficiency as applied to the articulation of a mood. The stylistic palette attests to the pull of a conscientiously eclectic record collection. Cohesiveness registers as a guiding impulse rather than as a natural byproduct. It’s all very earnest and determined.

Which could have made “James Farm” feel like a chore, too cerebral and micromanaged to take flight. The album does occasionally skirt that fate but never succumbs to it. Beneath the veneer of sleek accomplishment, there’s an undertow of risk.

The group’s members — Joshua Redman on tenor and soprano saxophones; Aaron Parks on piano, organ and keyboards; Matt Penman on bass; and Eric Harland on drums — share the responsibility for that sleight of hand. They come to the table with history: Mr. Redman has worked in the SFJazz Collective with Mr. Penman and Mr. Harland, who also served as the rhythm team on Mr. Parks’s most recent album. Their shorthand together is the main reason for the success of James Farm, as a concept and as a band.

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