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James Farm: City Folk review – bop meets pop on talented collective’s second album

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Thursday October 23, 2014

From The Guardian

James Farm: City Folk review – bop meets pop on talented collective’s second album
By: John Fordham

With their eponymous 2011 debut, the talented US collective James Farm created an attractive formula: fluent contemporary-bop soloing on pop-like tunes, country ballads, and some European-folk mutations, all powered by the thoroughbred rhythm section of drummer Eric Harland and bassist Matt Penman, fronted by sax star Joshua Redman and young pianist Aaron Parks. That album’s improv was stronger than the writing, and to some extent the same applies here – but the soloing is even more compelling, three of the tunes are superb (Penman’s riffy Two Steps, with its languidly slappy Harland backbeat; Parks’ meanderingly funky Otherwise; and Redman’s gently evaporating finale, What Remains), and the tracklist also features memorable vehicles for the saxophonist’s finely nuanced lyrical gifts, notably the quietly propulsive Unknown, with its yearning, pearly-toned soprano line. But it’s Parks and Redman’s enthralling improvisations that give this inviting set its special character.

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