Look on the back of any jazz record from the ’50s onward and the odds are pretty good that Art Farmer is on it. In 1945, Farmer blazed a trail the minute he set foot in Los Angeles: he improvised like a demon yet still managed to be melodic on trumpet and flugelhorn. Farmer’s playing enlivened the bands of Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, and Quincy Jones. In New York, he worked with Horace Silver, Gerry Mulligan, and Benny Golsen, among countless others. He led his own groups from the early ’60s on and released dozens of superb solo albums, but continued to drop in on friends’ sessions. His sound was so appealing that even during the dark ’70s, he had major label deals. What was his secret? Whatever it was, Farmer carried it to the grave in 1999 but we can still search for the answers in his music.
Throughout the mid 1950s, Farmer performed with drummer Art Blakey, tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and pianist Thelonious Monk. In 1956, Art performed with Horace Silver as well as leading a quartet called Farmer�s Market with tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and drummer Elvin Jones. After two years with Silver, Art performed in a small group led by baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.