James Farm – City Folk – Nonesuch

 By Chris Colgan

James Farm’s City Folk is definitely an album that captures the simpler, yet beautifully melodic side of jazz quartets of its kind. It opens with “Two Steps”, led by a simple piano melody is followed by Joshua Redman’s saxophone accompaniment. This track also features a tastefully messy piano solo from Aaron Parks, who manages to resolve all straying lines in a smooth manor. Joshua Redman follows suit with his solo that proceeds Parks, and it sets a nice tone for the album to start off with.

The third track, entitled “North Star”, offers bassist Matt Penman a chance to show off with a quick flashy solo early on. By this point in the album, it is apparent that this acoustic jazz quartet is not playing around. The song that follows “North Star”, entitled “Mr. E” has a plodding piano riff matched with a rock drum beat from Eric Harland throughout the melody sections that is just so sweet. Joshua Redman goes over it with the sax to create this rock-ish melody that is so unexpected from an acoustic jazz quartet, yet much appreciated. Also on this track, Eric Harland has an excellent set of drum features throughout the first half of the song before a smooth tempo change that shows the suave skills of each member of the group.

This is quartet James Farm’s second project together, their first being a great self-titled album that set the bar high for this group’s future projects, and City Folk definitely lived up to this. The synergy between the members of this group is evident from these recordings. In a good jazz album, the listener can often feel the connection between each musician in a group as each song smoothly floats along, and this album fits that bill perfectly. One can hear each musician building off of what the others create throughout the album, which is an aspect of jazz that I have always appreciated, especially in improvisation. Overall, this is album is a relaxing and sophisticated ride that showcases the talent of four incredible musicians that once again have proven that an acoustic jazz quartet should never be underestimated.