Joe Farnsworth’s ‘City Of Sounds’ Is A Unique, Enjoyable Addition To This Year’s Field Of New Live Music Offerings

Courtesy: Smoke Sessions Records

Veteran jazz drummer Joe Farnsworth is scheduled to release his latest record, City of Sounds, Friday through Smoke Sessions Records.  The eight-song record – his second with the label and third as a band leader (he has worked with a variety of other acts on other albums throughout his career) — is a fully successful new offering from Farnsworth.  If one did not know otherwise, one would not even realize that this recording is in fact a live set that, according to information provided to the media, was recorded over the weekend of Farnsworth’s birthday, Feb. 19-21 2021.  The liner notes, penned by George Cables, do not even point out this bit of information even as rich as they are.  Those rich liner notes will be addressed shortly, as they are their own key to the presentation’s success.  The set list featured in this unique live recording is the most notable of the presentation’s items.  It will be discussed shortly.    By connection, the concert’s production is also important to examined, so it will be addressed a little later.  All three noted items are important in their own way to the whole of this presentation.  All things considered, they make the recording a work that is among the best of this year’s new live CDs.

Joe Farnsworth’s forthcoming record, City of Sounds is a unique live recording that will appeal just as much to citizens of the city to which it pays tribute (New York) as to jazz fans in general.  The record’s success comes in part through its featured set list.  The 54-minute set list features a mix of covers and originals performed by Farnsworth and his fellow musicians, Kenny Barron and Peter Washington.  The set opens with a catchy, upbeat original composed by Barron in the form of ‘New York Attitude.’  The nearly six-minute composition expertly captures the energy of people making their way up and down the city’s streets.  This is evidenced just as much through the light way in which Barron makes his way across the piano’s keys and in which Farnsworth keeps time, adding just enough flare here and there with subtle cymbal crashes and solos.  Speaking of the solos, his is not the only one featured here.  As Cables’ notes point out about the song, “Everyone has solo space here as they get their feet wet for what promises to be a fun set.”  Fun is an understatement about the set, too.  From here the trio takes on what is one of only two covers featured in the set in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘The Surrey with the Fridge on Top.’  The song is one of only three covers featured in the set.  The next cover comes much later in the set in the form of Carl Suessdorf and John Blackburn’s ‘Moonlight in Vermont.’  Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein’s ‘Softly As In A Morning Sunrise’ rounds out the covers and the album.  The trio’s performance of each work pays full tribute to its source material, too.  Barron’s relaxed performance on piano in ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ paints a picture that is just as rich as that painted by any other act’s take on the song.  Many other acts have taken on the song, too, including the duo of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.  Washington’s equally relaxed bass line pair serves as a wonderful counterpoint to Barron’s performance and an equally welcome companion to Farnsworth’s own subtle, subdued time keeping.  Taking into account the mix of originals and covers featured here, and the performances thereof, the whole makes this aspect of City of Sounds its own success.  It is just one part of what makes the recording overall a success.  The production thereof builds on the success of the set list and its performance to enhance the presentation even more.

The production that went into City of Sounds is so important to note because of its impact on the general effect.  Keeping in mind that this recording is apparently a live recording, the production belies that element.  If an audience was in fact present for the recording over the course of the noted three-day span, then the production does not make any of that crowd noise audible.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, though.  There is a certain airy sense about the sound that does in fact hint at the performance being live or even semi-live (as in a live in-studio recording).  To that end, the subtlety in the production expertly balances each musician’s performance within the confines of the room to create a sound that even being live sounds like it was recorded in a studio.  It is that impressive.  Keeping that in mind, the production and the content together give audiences so much to appreciate here.  All of this is still just a portion of what makes the recording unique and enjoyable.  The information in the liner notes rounds out the recording’s most important elements.

As pointed out already here, George Cables’ notes do not make outright clear that this recording is in fact a live presentation.  That was information provided to media outlets.  That aside the liner notes still offer plenty to appreciate in their own right.  Case in point is Cables’ note that Farnsworth’s playing “is a testament to the vibrancy, diversity and musical history of New York City.”  That brief statement speaks volumes in setting the scene for the trio’s performance contained herein.  From there, Cables pays tribute to all three musicians, pointing out what makes each figure great.  He even goes so far as to compare Barron to Duke Ellington, calling him “Duke Elegant.”  As to Farnsworth, Cables writes that from the vantage point of a pianist (Cables is a pianist), “hooking up” with the drums “tightens the music” and that doing so with Farnsworth is “easy, because he’s always listening.”  That is a shining tribute to Farnsworth as a person and musician.  In writing about Washington, he speaks just as highly, stating, “He’s always present, always lyrical, always creative, and always in the groove.”  Everything that Cables writes of Washington is true, as audiences will hear for themselves in every one of his performances here.  After spending plenty of time praising Farnsworth and company, Cables changes gears and offers a brief, concise setup for each song featured in the set.  The whole of all of this content does so much to help set the stage (no pun intended) for the concert featured in this recording.  To that end, audiences would do well to take in Cables’ notes before even sitting down to take in the featured performance.  They will be glad they did.    When the notes that set up the featured concert are considered along with the content featured in the concert and the concert’s production, the whole comes together to make this presentation a complete success for Joe Farnsworth and company.

Joe Farnsworth’s new live recording, City of Sounds is a positive new offering from the veteran jazz drummer and his fellow musicians.  That is due in part to its featured set list.  The set list is composed primarily of original arrangements crafted by Farnsworth and his fellow musicians.  Only three of the set’s eight total songs are covers.  Even in the case of the covers, they are relatively well-known works.  All eight songs are well-performed, too.  The production that went into the recording works with the set list to enhance the presentation even more.  That is because of the positive impact that it has on the recording’s general effect.  The liner notes that accompany the recording do well to set up the performance featured in the recording.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make the recording one of the best of this year’s new live CDs.

City of Sounds is scheduled for release Friday through Smoke Sessions Records.  More information on the recording is available along with all of Joe Farnsworth’s latest news at:



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