The Artistry of… Art Farmer

A favourite and famous quote of Art Farmer goes this way: “What I try to do with a song … is to get as much enjoyment out of playing as I can.”

Early on, Farmer studied piano and violin in the elementary grades of school. He became the bugler for the flag-raising. He played other brass instruments in school bands. and in his teens he played in a dance band. It was during that time that he was turned on to the sound of the trumpet in big band jazz.

His jazz schooling came in what many consider to be the best way: in the jazz school of hard knocks in the bands of greats like Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk and Gigi Gryce.

The film A Great Day in Harlem, inspired by the famous Art Kane photograph of 1958, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1995. In it, Farmer is the last of the interviewed jazz greats to speak. Every time he played his horn, he spoke the language of jazz.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.