Picks and Pans Review: Chromatic Palette

UPDATED 11/02/1981 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/02/1981 at 01:00 AM EST

Tal Farlow

Dazzling technique can be taken for granted with jazz guitarists of this caliber, but color and ideas to match cannot. Take the set recorded live at the venerable Village Vanguard in 1978 by Detroiter Burrell, a veteran who's worked with John Coltrane and Jimmy Smith. Backed by bass and drums, he brings a strong propulsive drive and some artfully angled single-note runs to Sonny Rollins' Pent-Up House. In Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen's Come Pain or Come Shine, an unaccompanied slow blues, he attractively stitches together thick, pretty chords with deft single-note lines. You could safely play the album for anyone wanting to know what jazz guitar should sound like. But it's just that predictable textbook quality that makes it, finally, a standard outing. Tal Farlow's disc gives something more. An excitement and exuberance jump off the strings in fast numbers like Frank Loesser's If I Were a Bell, and a fat, sensuous bluesiness emerges in such slow numbers as the Arlen and Mercer One for My Baby (And One More for the Road). Farlow is a native South Carolinian who has lived for years on the Jersey Shore in a blissful kind of semiretirement, playing and recording when the spirit moves and plying his original trade, sign painting, the rest of the time. He is entirely self-taught, and picked up the guitar only at the relatively advanced age of 22. In short, he's an original, and his playing abounds with startling twists, happy, offbeat accents and the most fluid use of double harmonics—notes plucked so as to raise their pitch two octaves above the fret board—of any guitarist. On Chromatic Palette he marches to a very different drummer—none at all. Instead, he brings on his bassist Gary Mazzaroppi and the incomparable pianist Tommy Flanagan, whose own chromatic palette is among the biggest and most consistently delightful in jazz.

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