Jack Grassel / Tal Farlow
Two Guys with Guitars — Frozen Sky Records (http://www.jackgrassel.com).
I Remember You, Like Someone In Love, I Can’t Get Started, Bluesette, When Sunny Gets Blue, Someday My Prince Will Come, Lover Man, Stella By Starlight.
PERSONNEL: Jack Grassel (guitar), Tal Farlow (guitar)
By Dan Adler
Tal Farlow died more than 10 years ago and yet his recorded legacy continues to amaze and inspire jazz guitarists all over the world. Over the span of nearly 50 years, Tal Farlow has recorded some of the most memorable jazz guitar bebop solos ever. His early recordings with Red Norvo and Charles Mingus were landmarks in the development of small group arrangements that sounded surprisingly complete and always swinging even at the most challenging tempo. During his career, Farlow made many great studio recordings, but his close fans always had a soft spot for some of his early “home-made” recordings like the trios with Eddie Costa that were released on the Xanadu label as “First Set” and “Second Set”. What we have here is an even more informal collection of tunes played by Tal Farlow with his peer and student Jack Grassel at Farlow’s home and recorded by Farlow himself on his own equipment.
Jack Grassel is a great guitar player and musician in his own right. He has recorded dozens of CD’s and published numerous books on jazz guitar that are considered must-have books by many. He has also transcribed and recorded instructional versions of many of the most famous solos in jazz guitar history for a Hal Leonard series of books called “Jazz Guitar Favorites” – among them Tal Farlow’s own solo on “Stella By Starlight”, which was one of Farlow’s fastest and most amazing solos ever recorded (which Grassel executes perfectly at the original tempo on the CD that accompanies the book).
With this kind of background and technical mastery, it is no wonder that when Grassel showed up at Tal Farlow’s doorstep determined to study with him, the only form of study Farlow could offer him was to play together as a duo. And that is exactly what they did for nearly four years, which turned out to be Farlow’s last years before his death.
And so, we get the unique opportunity to be a fly on the wall in Farlow’s home, and listen in as these two masters play through some standard tunes recorded during those four years and then mastered by Grassel after Farlow’s death (with the late great guitarist’s permission and blessing, of course).
Before the first track is a short message that Tal Farlow left on Grassel’s answering machine. Even without knowing that Farlow’s days are numbered, Grassel could not bring himself to erase it for years, and finally included it here as a historical testament to the warmth and personality of the man he so admired.
As for the music, I can tell you that if you are a Farlow fan then you must get this album. Farlow’s playing is clean and relaxed and reminds me of his playing in those Xanadu recordings with Eddie Costa.
On “I Remember You”, Grassel sets up the melody and Farlow takes the first solo. Grassel lays down some super-comfortable comping behind Farlow with a bass line that never wavers and chord punctuations that keep the time flowing and the momentum going. Farlow is clearly happy with the comping, as he digs in and swings hard during his solo, playing some of his characteristic lines that often span two or three octaves in the space of one line. Within one chorus of Grassel’s solo you will be convinced that this is by no means a traditional student-teacher scenario. His wild and clean technique is on par with the master and he has his own more modern vocabulary to offer and is equally adventurous and swinging. In fact, it seems to me Farlow was so inspired by Grassel’s solo that he took another solo himself before winding the song down with some great interplay.
It’s hard to describe all the great moments during these duets, as there are too many of them to enumerate. Grassel’s rendering of the melody of “I Can’t get Started” is powerful and poignant and he inserts a great bluesy feel in between the many “impossible” runs.
“Bluesette” provides another great vehicle for Grassel’s formidable technique and tasty lines, and Farlow is brilliant as ever with his advanced harmonic sense and some of his signature double stops.
The last song is “Tal by Himself” and features just under 2 minutes of pure bliss, as you listen to a relaxed Farlow weave thick chords, move bass lines and melody notes simultaneously in seemingly 10 different directions at once, and fit in lightening fast runs that only he could pull off. As George Benson says admiringly in the movie about him: “nobody cuts Tal Farlow!”. He was in a class of his own.
This CD is definitely going on my iPod for many more enjoyable run-throughs and I would highly recommend it to any other jazz guitar or bebop fans. Jazz is music of the moment, to be enjoyed by those who are present in the moment of creation, but in this case, we are lucky that the tape was rolling and we can now share in these intimate moments with these two world-class musicians at their creative peak playing for themselves and for each other, and now – for all of us as well.
I believe you can only order this CD from Jack Grassel’s website (http://jackgrassel.com), and while you are visiting there, check out the many other fine CD’s Grassel has to offer as well as the large selection of jazz educational material.
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