Review: “Modern Art” Appreciation

Jazz in the 1950’s was characterized by the decline of bebop, the entrance of hard bop, and the rise of famed jazz musician Miles Davis. In the shadow of the mainstream hard bop of Davis, many other musicians were still developing the style that would propel them to create music that would connect with a large audience. Art Farmer’s 1959 album “Modern Art” best showcases the sophisticated lyrical style Farmer nurtured throughout the growth of his career.  

When his album “Modern Art” was released, Farmer had yet to form his most widely known group, The Jazztet. Music The Jazztet released was more mainstream and complex; comparable to the dynamic style of Art Blakey rather than the simple melodic albums Farmer had previously released. 

The album begins with a few of Farmer’s smooth and rhythmic compositions, and is then contrasted by warm ballads, followed by joyful swings – all of which display dynamic interactions and sophisticated musicianship within the group. Both horn players perform the written melody in a soloistic style, and their unwritten improvisation empowers them to create a unique sound for their audience.  

Describing music as melodic implies satisfaction for the ears of the listener. “Modern Art” reaches for the listener through rhythm, the perceived emotion of harmonic structure, and exceptional musicianship. Benny Golson’s introspective saxophone sound and Farmer’s deeply detailed trumpet tone create a delightful blend of mellow sounds. This album passes the vibe check.  

“Modern Art” contains a healthy mix of fast-paced swings and lyrical tunes that will appeal to every generation of jazzers. Although it may not be the eccentric music of Blakey or the cool blues of Davis, “Modern Art” has something for anyone seeking a candidly joyful melody.  

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