Tal Farlow’s sound was so much more than so many of the general styles and ways. It wasn’t just about the expected guitar-isms, including rhythmic strumming and picking, or single-line melody, or rhythm-section harmonic contributions. It was his ability to play at staggering tempos, all the while presenting melodic lines that dazzled and engaged. He could lend rhythm that complemented instead of just laying ground, and he could offer a freedom of harmonic expression that was the Farlow signature.
This quote is by Jazz Matters author Doug Ramsey: “Part of the fascination with Farlow’s playing is that he plays close to the edge of time.” Farlow played the whole instrument — exploring and giving presence to all of its many voices. His nickname was Octopus: big hands, long reach, affording him an artistry, and a style of playing, expertly mastering and creatively exploiting his physicality.
These words are his, echoing Jimmy Raney’s words about the same, all about how he related to the instrument he played. It was his chosen voice in music, his horn of expression: “‘I don’t have any great, strong allegiance to the instrument… it happens to be the instrument I can play’ It’s less a love for the instrument than it is a love for the music.”