Joe Farnsworth, In What Direction Are You Headed? Review
by Jeff Becker
Joe Farnsworth’s album In What Direction Are You Headed? is an exciting new chapter in his musical journey. The album features a quintet of outstanding musicians from his generation and the rising ones, including guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, keyboardist Julius Rodriguez, and bassist Robert Hurst. Farnsworth’s intent for the album is to channel the lessons he learned from elder jazz giants into a set of music to explore and blend his traditional swing and hard bop style with more modern jazz elements. The album has a duo of Rosenwinkel’s compositions, “Terra Nova” and “Filters,” these tunes present a chance to appreciate Farnsworth’s intricate and skillful rhythm in a modern setting.
Serving as the musical lodestar of the album, the title track “In What Direction Are You Headed?” is a celebrated piece by Harold Mabern, originally gracing the airwaves in Lee Morgan’s seminal 1971 album. This track anchors the album and offers a harmonious link between Farnsworth’s past and his forward-looking aspirations in the vibrant realm of modern jazz. Farnsworth’s seasoned drumming reverberates of style through this title track, as his deft handling of the snare weaves both rhythm and context seamlessly. There’s a palpable ebb and flow to the piece, steeped in a deep jazz groove that effortlessly lulls listeners into a state of relaxed engagement. The solos show Farnsorth’s ability to effectively support each soloist, complementing each soloist’s style, including his own solo, which is musical and filled with motifs. It’s a testament to Farnsworth’s musical agility, undeniably contributing to the album’s overall vitality and allure.
Moving into the realm of mellow mid-tempo, Wilkins’ resonant piece, “Composition 4,” unveils the ensemble’s handling of a slower groove. In this unconstrained musical environment, the individual rhythmic sensibilities of each player are strikingly apparent, enveloping listeners in a symphony of well-timed notes. Farnsworth’s decision to wield brushes for this piece truly shines, underscoring his renowned ability for brushwork eloquence. A testament to his evolving craft, he brings a contemporary touch to the piece, adeptly employing pauses and diverse accents while keeping his trademark style and sophistication intact. Thus, “Composition 4” emerges as a sophisticated auditory experience, a harmonious blend of traditional Farnsworth elegance and the fresh nuances of modern jazz.
In What Direction Are You Headed? is a testament to Farnsworth’s creative evolution and his profound respect for the past and excitement for the future, pushing him and us to navigate a broader spectrum of jazz. The style and artistic class Farnsworth effortlessly channels from the time-honored traditions of his mentors with his own fresh, dynamic approach is a journey through time, rhythm, and the essence of jazz itself. With In What Direction Are You Headed? Farnsworth brings us his rhythmic sensibilities and distinctive flair through a modern jazz perspective, inviting listeners to join him on this adventurous voyage.
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