JazzWax List: Robert Farnon - JazzWax

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April 28, 2011


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O'Sullivan, Red

It's particularly gratifying to see this appraisal of Farnon. He's the big one. (And proves that "light music" can be awfully heavy).
He also wrote a great record for Sarah Vaughan, "Vaughan and Voices" - very beautiful.
He's unique, maybe in all of music (although Charlie Parker comes to mind too) in being universally acknowledged as number one by everyone in his field, without contest. It's not just Previn, but Mandel, Quincy Jones, Torrie Zito, Benny Golson, Donald Byrd, Marion Evans, Roger Kellaway and so many other arrangers who look to him as their God. Dizzy Gillespie too. (I even have a letter from Benny Carter extolling his virtues!).
I would particularly recommend his earlier Shearing record "On Target" as well (now to be found on the superb 4 CD Shearing set "The MPS Sessions"), and should point out one error above: "Wild Is The Wind", his arrangement for JJ, is not on the Grammy winning "Tangence" CD, but rather on another disc "The Brass Orchestra", where Farnon is one of several arrangers represented.
Another great one is the record he wrote for Joe Williams, "Here's To Life", also Telarc - and I particularly recommend the guitar solos of Louis Stewart, Farnon's favoured soloist, on the 2 records he wrote for Eileen Farrell, both Shearing discs, a fine record for Carol Kidd the Joe Williams and, on the JJ Johnson "Tangence", I would send you very particularly to the track "Dinner For One, Please, James" so I would.
Herbie Hancock also acknowledges Farnon as one of his primary harmonic influences. He heard him early on in his devolpment and claims Farnon's genius as a profound influence. Too bad they never made the record together that was being discussed as a possibility. Would have been beautiful (and no coincidence that Shearing was Hancock's first piano inspiration too).

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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