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Friday May 13, 2011

From All About Jazz

Matt Penman: Down on James Farm
By: R.J. DeLuke

Matt Penman and his bass have inhabited a variety of musical places and spaces in recent years, all of them on a very high level. That speaks to his abilities on his instrument, and his adaptability to diverse situations. He of the fluid hands, rich sound and steady, melodic pulse always comes through. That’s why he’s performed with Joshua Redman’s Double Quartet and the SFJAZZ Collective. He’s also elevated the musical projects of Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Kurt Rosenwinkel and many others.

The New Zealand native, who wasn’t formally trained but still managed to garner a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, has forged many strong relationships since coming to the United States in 1994, and he values them all. One of those resulted in a band that could become an authoritative presence on the music scene for some time, if longevity is in its bones. That is James Farm, which first sprouted in 2009 at the Montreal Jazz Festival, a gathering of friends and musical cohorts. But the band is working increasingly, and released its debut recording—James Farm, aptly enough—on Nonesuch Records in April, 2011.

It’s a collective of some of today’s deepest musical souls, musicians to whom art and creativity are paramount. It utilizes the saxophone of Redman, the piano of Aaron Parks and the drums of Eric Harland, but as much as that, it draws into its vortex their musical minds. And each one of those is formidable. The word “collective” isn’t just lip service. And the music produced thus far is impressive, not just for its excellence, but in the way it cracks open a door. It will be a thrill to see how the plant grows and what directions the branches take as they seek the sunlight.

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