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Joe Farnsworth - In What Direction Are You Headed? (Smoke Sessions)

17 May 2023

Drummer Joe Farnsworth has made it his mission to play with jazz giants he admires. Due to his sense of time and accessible but distinctive swing, he’s succeeded, becoming a staple of bands led by George Coleman and the late Harold Mabern. When it came to making In What Direction Are You Headed?, though, Farnsworth called on peers and younger players for a session that’s both traditionalist and postmodern. And what a lineup it is, too: pianist Julius Rodriguez and saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins have become two of the brightest lights on the scene, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel is a well-respected and inventive middle statesman (alongside Farnsworth himself), and bassist Robert Hurst is a legendarily steady and supple sideperson. Together they create a formidable wall of swing, as at home on burning freewheelers like Rodriguez’s “Anyone But You” and Mabern’s title track as they are with calm ballads like Rosenwinkel’s “Filters” and Wilkins’ “Composition 4.” After seven cuts of bopping hard and/or slow, Farnsworth and company send us back out into the night with a lovely cover of Donny Hathaway’s classic ode to empowerment “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” If that doesn’t ease the mind of a happily exhausted jazz fan, it’s unclear what will.