- Harmony – Great art brings multiple ingredients that are distinct and in many cases would seem to not be able to go together, and makes them work as a brilliant, beautiful, and unique whole. The sum becomes greater than its parts. The great composers and the oil painting masters did this in spades!
- Balance – No one part of the work should stand out above the others. With music, this would mean that the bass (for instance) would not overpower the rest of the instrumentation or the vocals. You may have an instance where an instrument rises above the whole (in the case of an improvised jazz solo) but that is the exception rather than the rule.
- Contrast – Great individual pieces, and great albums, don’t operate at a single volume and a single pace. There is dynamic range that brings contrast, complexity, and emotion. Contrast is used to create “movement” which is another requirement for great art.
James Farm is the collaboration of saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland. Each of these musicians represent the height of living jazz musicianship and expression at their given instrument, which alone makes their collaboration noteworthy. But great individual pieces does not always equate to an exceptional whole. (Sorry Miami Heat fans). In the case of James Farm, while Redman’s saxophone, perhaps as expected, is the standout ingredient, the ensemble does manage to be more than its ingredients.
The Head and the Heart was actually released as a homemade album in 2010 before the band was signed to their label, Sub-pop. Sub-pop remastered the original album, had a couple of tracks completely re-recorded, and offered up what may prove to be one of the more significant bands to emerge in a while (only time will tell).
I’d love your feedback. What do you agree with? Disagree? Are there albums you’re passionate should be on the list that aren’t?
Happy New Year!