Saturday, March 31, 2018

Tal Farlow - 1981 [1999] "On Stage"

Other than a Prestige date in 1969, this was guitarist Tal Farlow's first recording in nearly 17 years. He is heard at a reunion with vibraphonist Red Norvo and matching wits with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jake Hanna. Recorded at the 1976 Concord Jazz Festival, this was Farlow's first of six Concord albums, and it led to a slightly higher profile for him than during the past decade. Highlights of the joyous occasion include Norvo's feature on "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else," a heated "Lullaby of Birdland" and a colorful rendition of "My Shining Hour." Highly recommended to straight-ahead jazz fans.

This reunion between Tal Farlow and Red Norvo was recorded at the 1976 Concord Jazz Festival and originally released in 1981. Now available on CD, the session marked their first time together in many years. Along with Charles Mingus, Farlow was a member of the Red Norvo Trio of 1949. Mingus stayed for only a brief time, but the guitarist stayed with him until 1953. Then the two went their separate ways; Farlow preferring to stay home and perform at local venues. Thus, this reunion served as a prod to bring the guitarist back into the fold; he recorded a handful of albums shortly after this one.
Truly an all-star session with plenty of solos and fours, the program brought out well-worn standards for the festival audience. Hank Jones displays his light piano touch a cappella on "The Very Thought of You," coloring every phrase with expressive right hand motion and carefully selected left-hand harmony. Performed as a quartet without guitar, "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else" features piano and vibraphone trading fours with similar styles, both of them delicate and swinging. Farlow begins his medley of "A Time for Love" and "My Romance" unaccompanied and with subtle fire before bringing the quartet together again; Norvo lays out for that one. We lost Tal Farlow in 1998 and Red Norvo in 1999. Their decision to lead an all-star reunion twenty-three years ago resulted in a superb album that’s finally available on CD.

Knowledgeable jazz fans would probably guess a couple of things about this release just from looking at the names of the musicians: first, that this set must have been recorded some years back; second, that this set must be tasteful and tasty indeed. Both guesses would be correct. This live set was skillfully recorded by Concord engineer Phil Edwards at the Concord Jazz Festival back in August 1976. It was released as an LP in 1981, and is making its debut on CD more than two decades after being recorded. Farlow (guitar), Jones (piano), Norvo (vibes), Brown (bass), and Hanna (drums) are all masters of their instruments, and they certainly seemed to have enjoyed playing together during that Bicentennial summer. The songs are standards (e.g., "Lullaby of Birdland," "In a Mellow Tone") and the atmosphere is one of convivial music making that the audience seemed to really appreciate. More then three decades later, we can appreciate it, too.

Tal Farlow, Red Norvo, Ray Brown, Hank Jones and Jake Hanna recorded live at the Concord Pavillion in August 1976. A real toe-tapper from start to finish. What more needs to be said?
Simply put, this is one of Concord Jazz's best releases from both a music and sound quality point of view. But just when you think Farlow is going to steal the show with his wonderful guitar solos, Hank, Ray and Red get in the act too. Get this one before it disappears, or, better yet, contact Concord Records and lobby them to reissue this one in their new series of 30th anniversary releases on SACD. THEN you'd really know how great this one sounds!


1. The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else 6:11
2. My Romance 7:01
3. Lullaby Of Birdland 7:46
4. My Shining Hour 7:38
5. The Very Thought Of You 2:45
6. Rose Room 6:42


Tal Farlow- guitar;
Red Norvo- vibraphone;
Hank Jones- piano;
Ray Brown- bass;
Jake Hanna- drums.