Moon Germs: Joe Farrell

Joe Farrell Moon Germs cover

In late March last year (2014) I posted a comment on London Jazz Collector’s site in response to a piece he had written about an album produced by Creed Taylor here. I was asking if anybody could recommend any Creed Taylor productions that avoided over-orchestration and fellow regular LJC contributor, Eduard Linshalm pointed me in the direction of Joe Farrell’s Moon Germs.

Although I purchased a copy almost immediately, it has taken a year to get round to presenting a consideration of this set here. Over the last year I’ve looked at classic recordings, broadened the site’s scope to look at new releases and also tried to take in a few live performances. Sets like this one, produced in the early 1970’s and veering towards jazz-rock fusion have been overlooked here because I’ve wanted to alternate between classic and contemporary recordings.

So here we go. Great Gorge starts off with a well-crafted tune played on soprano sax over a heavy duty funk background. It then moves on to a post-hard bop improvisation. Herbie Hancock delivers a fast, dexterous solo on keyboards while Stanley Clarke on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums add an intricate texture in the background, before we return to the tune and it’s funky background in a brief reprise.

The title track, Moon Germs, follows. It has a busy feel with a superb bass line delivered by Stanley Clarke and, to my ears, is vaguely similar to Freedom Jazz Dance. You can hear it courtesy of YouTube:-

To play either click on or touch the arrow

Times Lies is a Chick Corea tune which starts out as a waltz, albeit with a very pronounced bass line, before Farrell pays respects to John Coltrane’s Chasing The Train in his solo.

Bass Folk Song sees Farrell pick up his flute on a tune which has something of a calypso feel to it.

Creed Taylor is in the producers chair and the album was recorded at the Englewood Cliffs Studio with Rudy Van Gelder as engineer.

Moon Germs has been rated as one of the stronger jazz recordings on CTI and, in my opinion, it benefits from just being a quartet recording on which the strings and and orchestration of many other CTI recordings are absent and the production is restrained. Farrell displays a mastery of the soprano saxophone, which is not easy to play well and this recording makes me want to hear what he was like on tenor. Stanley Clarke’s bass playing is at the heart of this set and I will also listen out for other recordings by him. Thanks for the recommendation, Eduard.

Chicago born Joe Farrell recorded four albums on CTI and sat in with many other jazz, fusion and rock artists ranging from Elvin Jones and Charles Mingus to Hall and Oates and Laura Nyro. He was also an early member of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. He died of a blood disorder in 1986, aged 48.

The band etc.: Joe Farrell (soprano saxophone, flute); Herbie Hancock (piano); Stanley Clarke (bass); Jack DeJohnette (drums). Recorded: 21 November 1972. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Creed Taylor. Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Pete Turner. Cover Design: Bob Ciano. Reissue sleeve notes: James Isaacs. Originally issued on CTI in 1973.