The digitially remastered release of these three milestone recordings is very welcome. For such a key figure in the jazz landscape of the 1960s and 70s, multi-reed and saxophone virtuoso Farrell has not received commensurate recognition for his achievements, firstly as a vital part of the first and seminal incarnation of the Return To Forever supergroup, and secondly for the consistent high quality of his solo albums through the 1970s in particular.
Producer Creed Taylor offered Farrell a solo contract with his newly formed CTI Records at the beginning of 1970. Joe Farrell Quartet made an indelible impression on a teenager’s first introduction to jazz, and is worth the purchase price alone, even without the further two albums. Re-released twice in the mid-70s, it is now rightly regarded as a classic of its kind, an outstanding session from CTI’s remarkable catalogue of the period. It was a coup to have hired the services of such an illustrious group of Miles’ sidemen, DeJohnette and McLaughlin having recorded with Davis on the Live-Evil sessions only a matter of weeks previously. Mc Laughlin’s slow, bluesy opener, Follow Your Heart, a composition interspersed with striking tape-delay effects, is a masterpiece. Farrell’s bossa-nova Molten Glass features some wonderful flute playing. Circle In The Square brings to mind the intensity of the late Coltrane quartet’s Out Of This World, with Farrell, Holland and Corea trading brilliantly. Song Of The Wind is an elegiac duet between soprano, oboe and piano. Collage For Polly, Alter Ego and Corea’s closing composition, Motion, are full of free improvisation, employing echo and panning effects.
Outback, recorded 16 months later, reunited Farrell with a new rhythm section, his old bandleader Elvin Jones and Buster Williams, then playing in the Mwandishi band. The two stand-out tracks are the title track, a bossa-nova with inspired flute playing and Corea’s shimmering percussive chords, and November 68th, an Afro-Cuban 12/8, featuring a powerful tenor solo and trademark solos by Corea and Jones’s sole solo. Despite the excellence of the playing, this album does not possess the coherent brilliance of either its predecessor or its follow-up.
Moon Germs was Farrell’s biggest-selling CTI album and quite a departure from Outback. The collective here matches the quality of its constituent personnel. Great Gorge is a tour de force, funk quickly morphing into fast bebop and a free section, returning to funky clavinet, with soaring soprano solo, then Hancock at his fluent and expansive best. Moon Germs, a swinging blues bebop, again showcases Farrell’s lyricism alongside Hancock’s’ magisterial Rhodes, accompanied by great playing from Clarke and DeJohnette. Chick Corea’s ‘Times Lie’ starts as a waltz, emerging into a samba groove with DeJohnette’s prominent mallet work. Clarke’s classic melodic Bass Folk Song provides ample scope for more great interplay between Farrell and Hancock.
CD1: [Joe Farrell Quartet] (1) Follow Your Heart; Collage For Polly; Circle In The Square; Molten Glass; Alter Ego; Song Of The Wind; Motion [Outback] (2) Outback; Sound Down; Bleeding Orchid; November 68th (68.05)
CD2: [Moon Germs] (3) Great Gorge; Moon Germs; Times Lie; Bass Folk Song (37.37)
(1) Farrell (ss, ts, f, o); Chick Corea (p); Dave Holland (b); Jack DeJohnette (d); John McLaughlin (elg). Van Gelder Studio, New York, 1 and 2 July 1970.
(2) Farrell (ss, ts, f, af, picc); Elvin Jones (d); Chick Corea (elp); Buster Williams (b); Airto Moreira (pc). Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey, November 1971.
(3) Farrell (ss, f); Herbie Hancock (elp); Stan Clarke (b); Jack DeJohnette (d). Van Gelder Studios, New Jersey, 21 November 1972.
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