Farmer Gets Funky: Art Farmer - "Something You Got"

Art Farmer • Something You Got • 1977 • CTI Records
Recorded July 1977 at Electric Lady Studios, NYC

The Selection:

The Tracks:

A1. Something You Got
A2. Flute Song
A3. Saudhade
B1. Sandu
B2. Spain
B3. Hombre Del Sol

The Players:

Art Farmer - Flugelhorn
Yusef Lateef - Tenor Sax
The David Matthews Big Band:
David Matthews - Electric Piano, Arranger
Burt Collins - Trumpet
Joe Shepley - Trumpet
Frank Vicari - Tenor Sax
David Tofani - Soprano Sax, Flute
Kenny Berger - Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet
Sam Burtis - Trombone
Tony Price - Tuba
Fred Griffin - French Horn
Hiram Bullock - Electric Guitar
Harvie Swartz - Bass
Jim Madison - Drums
Sue Evans - Percussion

The Record:

Art Farmer. Photo Credit Unknown.

It's been a bit since my last post as I decided to get some new shelves to house my vinyl, which meant no turntable setup for a bit. Now that the transfer is almost complete, I'm ready to turn my attention back to The Jazz Record. First up is Art Farmer's Something You Got, not exactly a record that is gonna make anyone's list of classic or must-have jazz LPs, but one that is nonetheless an excellent example of a late 1970s jazz funk recording by a true jazz legend. 

As noted here before my appreciation for Art Farmer has grown immensely in recent years. It has evolved from "Hey, that's the guy from Cool Struttin'" to "An Art Farmer LP? I'll take it!" and as many vinyl hunters already know, many of his later recordings can be had for bargain-basement prices. As I procure more Farmer recordings over the years (especially his Jazztet albums with Benny Golson), I continue to find his cool and easy playing on the trumpet and flugelhorn more and more pleasing to my ears. His lyrical and sensitive style is also perfectly suited to the electric and jazz-funk albums he would put out on CTI in the latter half of the 1970s, and while Something You Got is not the best of his albums from the era (and certainly far from the best known) it is a great listen with some inventive playing from both Farmer and fellow legend Yusef Lateef. 

Also present - and also receiving second billing on the front cover along with Lateef - is the David Matthews Big Band. The leader of the band, the keyboardist Matthews, is probably best known in the jazz-funk world for his album Dune on CTI, but I profess I don't know much about the guy. A quick Google search reveals that he was not only the house arranger for CTI starting in the mid-'70s, but that he also spent time in the early part of that decade as the arranger and bandleader for James Brown. He obviously had some serious talent, but he doesn't appear to much more than a obscure figure in the wider world of modern jazz.

Art Farmer on the other hand was beyond prolific as a jazz player, according to Wikipedia he recorded more than 50 albums as a leader (plus a dozen more with the Jazztet), as well as another few dozen as a sideman on other musician's albums. Of his five CTI recordings, I already own Crawl Space (my personal favorite from this period) and Big Blues (with Jim Hall, also excellent), so when I came across Something You Got it was obvious it would be coming home with me. 

The strongest tracks on the album are the first two, "Something You Got" and "Flute Song", which also happen to be the funkiest tunes on the record, with the former being a blaxploitation-style number whose theme you'll be whistling for a couple days after hearing it. Those two tunes set the pace for the record, but the whole affair holds the listener's interest, due to the high level of soloing by Farmer and Lateef (who pretty much stays in the pocket here), and the more straight-up jazz tracks that are present are very enjoyable. I'm not always a huge fan of big band style arrangements with my funk (a position that is admittedly at odds with my love of some early CTI recordings), but for the most part Matthews keeps the arrangements unobtrusive (with the exceptions of "Sandu" which is clearly a showcase for the big band) and the band members complement the leads of Farmer and Lateef quite nicely. 

The Vinyl:

I scored this copy for a meager $4 at my local shop, and it is your typical late period CTI record with the gatefold cover and familiar yellow label. The cover artwork has fallen off noticeably from those ultra-hip CTI covers of the early 70s by Pete Turner, but Farmer still looks pretty damn cool in the photograph that adorns the front cover.  

We have  "87743-A2" and "87743-B1" hand-etched into the vinyl trail-off on sides A and B respectively. There is also a smaller hand etched "J.G." on both sides, a notation I naturally associated with the session's engineer, but since that was a fellow named David Palmer, that theory is out the window. If you know what the "J.G." signifies, I'd love to know, otherwise you're guess is as good as mine. 

The sound of the album is surprisingly good for a late 1970s release (especially on vinyl this damn thin), and the presence of the "MASTERDISK" machine stamp in the trail-off provides a clue into the nice audio quality. They are still well known in the recording industry for their mastering skills, and those of you who geek out about the vinyl process know how important it is that the music be mastered specifically for vinyl. I had a few pieces of rock and roll vinyl from the early 2000's where it was apparent that the music wasn't mastered for vinyl and right out of the shrinkwrap the sound was so bad it was as if the stylus was cutting through a layer of mud to reach the grooves.

Something You Got isn't the first work by Farmer you should seek out if you are looking to start adding some of his records to your collection - for that I'd definitely start with his Jazztet output - but if you come across it in the racks snatch it up and you'll have yourself a nice LP to throw on when you're in the mood for some of that good time funky jazz music.