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Joe Farnsworth

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A dexterous jazz drummer rooted in the acoustic hard bop tradition, Joe Farnsworth is known for his hard-swinging style, effervescent sense of time, and warm sense of group interplay. Farnsworth arrived on the scene in the early '90s working with a bevy of veteran and younger players, including Cecil Payne, Harold Mabern, Junior Cook, Eric Alexander, and Steve Davis. He is a longtime member of the supergroup One for All and has released his own engaging albums, including 1999's Beautiful Friendship, 2004's It's Prime Time, and 2020's Time to Swing. Born in 1968 in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Farnsworth was raised in a creative family with a father who worked as a music teacher and introduced his children to jazz. Along with his four older brothers, Farnsworth was encouraged to play music from a young age and started on the drums in elementary school. He studied privately with noted drummers Alan Dawson and Arthur Taylor and eventually earned his music degree from William Paterson College in New Jersey. Following his graduation, he moved to New York City where he began leading his own groups, as well as working alongside luminaries like Junior Cook, John Ore, Big John Patton, and others. Farnsworth garnered early attention playing on sessions with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and built upon that partnership, joining Alexander as a founding member of the hard bop super group One for All. The drummer has appeared on all of the group's albums, including 1997's Too Soon to Tell, 2001's Live at Smoke, and 2003's Wide Horizons. He has also worked regularly with such luminaries as Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, and Harold Mabern. As a leader, he debuted in 1999 with Beautiful Friendship, a hard-swinging session featuring a mix of veteran and contemporary players, including trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist Cedar Walton, saxophonist Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, and bassist Nat Reeves. He followed in 2004 with It's Prime Time, an equally robust outing again featuring his One for All bandmates Alexander and trumpeter Jim Rotondi, as well as bassist Ron Carter, pianist Harold Mabern, and trombonist Curtis Fuller. Farnsworth was back with One for All for 2006's Lineup, 2008's What's Going On?, and 2009's Return of the Lineup. There were also further solo dates with Alexander, Rotondi, keyboardist Mike LeDonne, and others. In 2014, he released his fourth solo album, My Heroes. A quartet date with saxophonist Alexander, pianist Mabern, and bassist Reeves, it found the drummer paying homage to his idols like Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Roy Haynes. That same year, he joined saxophonist George Coleman on Down for the Count and returned the following year on Mabern's Afro Blue. He also reunited with LeDonne for the pianist's 2016 quartet session That Feelin' and was back with One for All for The Third Decade. In 2017, he again appeared with Alexander on Song of No Regrets before appearing on pianist Mabern's posthumously released 2020 album Mabern Plays Mabern. Also in 2020, Farnsworth released his fifth album as leader, Time to Swing, featuring trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Kenny Barron, and bassist Peter Washington.
© Matt Collar /TiVo
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