Art Farmer Biography

Arthur Stewart Farmer, 21 August 1928, Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA, d. 4 October 1999, New York City, New York, USA. While still a child Farmer moved first to Phoenix, Arizona, then to Los Angeles. This was in the mid-40s, and during the next few years Farmer played trumpet in various name bands, including those led by Jay McShann and Benny Carter, and worked and recorded with musicians as diverse as Johnny Otis, Wardell Gray and Teddy Edwards. In the early 50s he was with Lionel Hampton, touring Europe and recording there (against Hampton’s express orders) with fellow sideman Clifford Brown. Back in New York, where Hampton fired pretty nearly his entire band for making those now classic records, Farmer worked with many of the leading contemporary musicians resident in the city. Amongst those artists were Teddy Charles, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Gerry Mulligan and George Russell.

At the end of the decade he and Benny Golson formed their own group which they named the Jazztet. This band also included Farmer’s twin brother, Addison Farmer, who played bass. The Jazztet folded in 1962 and thereafter Farmer worked mostly as a single occasionally forming his own small groups. From the mid-60s onwards he worked extensively in Europe, spending much time in Vienna, Austria, where he was a member of the national radio big band. He also played with the Clarke-Boland Big Band. By this time he had begun favouring the flügelhorn, especially when leading small groups which he continued to do through the 70s and 80s. Farmer continued to tour extensively up until his death in October 1999.

A highly melodic soloist, with inventive turns of phase and a frequently elegiac approach to his music, Farmer’s popularity was sometimes overshadowed by that of his less-talented contemporaries. Study of his work over several decades reveals an artist of considerable emotional depths which he plumbed more and more as the years passed. In a quiet, unassuming manner, which reflected his personality, Farmer proved hard to pigeonhole. This was a quality which sometimes led observers to pay less attention to him than would be the case had he been a more assertive man and performer.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.