IT'S TEN O'CLOCK on a Friday night in anybigcity, USA, and you are midway down the steps leading into the small Jazz Club on Second Street South. This Club, you have heard, is the place to see live jazz, a club where many up and coming artists perform live. You have heard live jazz only once or twice before, but definitely not in such an august setting. The poster outside confirms that Mr. X is playing with his quartet, composed of musicians whose names you don't recognize. But your friend, who purports to be an aficionado, has told you Mr. X is a living legend. Tonight's performance by Mr. X is a tribute to the musical genius of Art Farmer. Who is Art Farmer, you ask?
"One . . . two . . . one, two, uh, uh, uh," and the music begins.
Hey, you recognize the song! You can't remember the title or lyrics, but you have a CD of Joe Williams or some other great jazz crooner singing this song, and you love it, although this quartet seems to be playing it awfully fast. You triumphantly recall the title, "The Very Thought of You," and watch. Soon you are transfixed by Mr. X's fluid statement of the melody. Such is the transcendent power of Art Farmer's music. As you listen to the quiet thoughtfulness of his unmistakable genius, you immediately sense the familiar. His phrasing, though unique in its intent, is so reminiscent of Miles. The "Portrait of Art Farmer" is a memorable conversation between you and a close friend. It is a sketch of something well-known stretched over a bare canvas. It is spiritual and natural. It is lyrical and melodic. Yet there is no contradiction, only synthesis. You may be more aware of the commercial success of Mr. X., but it's time you met an original.