Nonesuch Records releases James Farm’s sophomore album, City Folk, on October 27, 2014. The
album features a new collection of 10 original tunes written by all four members of the collaborative band:
saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland. Redman says, “The first record was more of a proposition, almost a question. ‘What is James Farm?’ The second record is, in a certain sense, a partial answer.” On City Folk, also self-produced, the group continues to use traditional acoustic jazz quartet instrumentation for its song-based approach to jazz and incorporates the members’ myriad influences.
“The music on City Folk is a window onto one part of our musical personalities and a step forward in terms of defining the sound of the band,” says Penman. “In general, we like to let the songs lead the way, and each of these tunes is like a mini world unto itself with its own ecosystem and hidden places to discover.” Redman explains the band’s commitment “not just to vehicles for improvisation but to songs that tell stories.” Parks notes, “By writing for this band, our individual writing styles begin to influence one another’s. A few songs by different composers have thematic things that tie them together almost accidentally.”
The quartet members have performed in this exact configuration since its debut at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2009. Before that, Redman, Harland, and Penman performed together as part of the SFJAZZ Collective, and pianist Aaron Parks used the James Farm rhythm section on his debut recording for Blue Note records, Invisible Cinema (2008).
James Farm released its self-titled debut album on Nonesuch to critical acclaim in 2011. “While some groups seem to star one particular player, James Farm has taken a collective approach that works wonderfully,” wrote the Huffington Post. “Each musician is both virtuoso and composer in his own right and they have subdued their own egos for the betterment of the musical message to great success.” The New York Times said the album was “a model of dazzling proficiency,” and NPR Music called it “taut and confident.” All About Jazz lauded the group as “an all-star quartet featuring four of the best players and improvisers in modern jazz. On top of their astonishing technique and raw style, there is a chemistry underlying it all that equals astonishing music.”