Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jazz Literature on the Career of Gary McFarland:

This blog posting features a collection of four articles on Gary McFarland, an American Jazz Composer and Arranger and orchestra leader, who lived from 1933 to 1971.

It is essentially an unedited compilation of selected writings, critiques and interviews which is intended to provide an overview of George's career and his approach to music for those who might be unfamiliar with his work as well as a starting point for those wishing to do further research about him.


Each article has previously appeared on the blog as a separate piece and, as is our wont from time to time, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles likes to collect these individual essays and make them available "all in one place."

Gary was a sui generis composer-arranger from an era in Jazz when such uniqueness was commonplace.

Remember, a contradiction, such as the one inherent in the previous sentence, exists only if you see it.

 Voyage of Discovery [From the Archives]

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Gary McFarland was unknown at twenty-eight when he turned up at a 1961 rehearsal [of Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band] with two pieces, "Weep" and "Chug-gin'," profoundly influenced by Ellington and Strayhorn.

When he died tragically ten years later, his reputation had been sullied by several com­mercial projects. But the McFarland that Mulligan sent on his way was an impressive writer (he soon fulfilled his promise with The Jazz Version of How To Succeed in Business, Point of Departure, and The October Suite), with an ear for melody and the ability to layer rhythms in the wind sections.

Like Bob Brookmeyer and Thad Jones, McFarland extended El­lington's harmonic density, employing what the arranger and educator Rayburn Wright called "grinds"—major and minor seconds woven into the voicings.”
- Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz [p.362-363]


Any musician who is self-taught to any degree knows this as an almost universal truth: if you can hear it, you can find a way to play it.

I had to “unlearn” everything once I began taking drums lessons, because there is the right or correct way to execute music on the instrument; and then there is the way we learn to play when only the ear is the guide.

But I was a Jazz drummer before I became a technically proficient Jazz drummer. I just found a way to replicate on the instrument sounds that I heard while listening to records. 

And although I wasn’t in their league, many of the Jazz greats learned to play by ear and received technical training later in life or, in some cases, not at all.

This is also true of composer-arrangers.

As a teen-ager, Gil Evans listened to records at speeds slower than 78rpm’s to pick out sounds from the Louis Armstrong recordings that he treasured and then invented his own notation system to write arrangements before he had any sort of schooling in the art of orchestration.

This may account for the fact that Gil’s arrangements always seem to use unique combinations of instruments including tubas with flutes and rarely heard [in Jazz] reed instruments such as the oboe and English horn.

He was trying to replicate into music sounds that he heard in his head and these odd or unusual instruments were the best source to emulate his impressions.

He didn’t know what he couldn’t do, because he had no formal training to tell him otherwise.

Enter Gary McFarland.


Gary was initially self-taught both on vibraphone and as a composer arranger and, like Gil Evans, one of his heroes, he altered the course of composing, arranging and scoring Jazz while trying to replicate or notate in music what he heard in his head.

As Bob Brookmeyer, an unparalleled valve trombone player and one of the premier Jazz composer-arranger of our times said of Gary:

“… he didn’t know enough to be like anybody else. So he developed his own way of writing, and I was really interested in him because he was so individual.”

Pianist Steve Kuhn remarked of his collaboration with Gary in The October Suite, which was composed and arranged by McFarland:

“… how beautifully Gary’s writing for the strings and woodwinds came off when you consider he has not had much training in scoring for these instruments.”

In his liner notes to the recording, Nat Hentoff expanded on this thought when he observed:

“Clearly, in Gary’s case this lack of formal training freed him from pre-set conceptions of what could and could not be done and that’s why the results are so personal.”

“So personal” is a phrase that needs to be emphasized for although Gary would later go on to formal training with stints at the Lenox (Massachusetts) School of Jazz and the Berklee College of Music [in Boston], Gary’s music always retained an individual vitality and a singularity of sound which were no doubt reflections of his wanderings in the World of Musical Self-Discovery.

Bill Kirchner, composer-arranger, multi-reed player, educator and editor of The Oxford Companion to Jazz, wrote these insert notes to Gary McFarland’s The Jazz Version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and has kindly allowed us to reproduce them on these pages.

He, too, notes how Gary took his personal curiosity and determination of purpose and - with “a little help from his friends” - developed them into a musical world that was characteristically his own.



© -  Bill Kirchner: used with the author’s permission; copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Here … [is one] of the finest big-band jazz recordings of the early 1960s, featuring the cream of New York studio jazz talent plus writing that is still astoundingly fresh and creative more than three decades later.  … The album, unavailable for many years, was the product of a studio system that has largely disappeared — one that enabled some of the best instrumentalists and composer/arrangers in jazz to create, with seemingly routine efficiency, a host of memo­rable recorded works.

The careers of … Gary McFarland and Bob Brookmeyer frequently intertwined in those days. In fact, Brookmeyer was responsible for McFarland's first impor­tant break in New York. Though only four years McFarland's senior, Brookmeyer, born in 1929, was at that time a far more experienced musician, having been in several big bands and a featured soloist during the mid-Fifties with the Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Jimmy Giuffre groups. Highly regarded as a valve trombonist, pianist (he recorded a piano-duet album with Bill Evans), and composer/arranger, Brookmeyer was an important presence on the New York scene. He had made substantial inroads as a studio musician, was straw boss of the newly formed Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band (CJB) and, in August 1961, formed a quintet with Clark Terry that lasted for five years.

McFarland, when he moved to New York, was a comparative novice; until his mid-twenties he had been a self-described "nickel-and-dime hedonist", a musical illiterate who, with well-timed encouragement from several sources (columnist Ralph Gleason, flutist Santiago Gonzalez, John Lewis, pianist/vibraphonist Buddy Montgomery, and Cal Tjader), taught him­self the vibraphone, learned to write music, and obtained scholarships to the Lenox (Massachusetts) School of Jazz and the Berklee College of Music. Though his stay at Berklee was brief, it enabled him to meet Herb Pomeroy, the trumpeter/arranger/educator who, apart from his teaching duties, led a fine professional big band; McFarland got impor­tant experience writing for this group. In September 1960 he moved to New York and met Brookmeyer at a social gathering.

Invited soon thereafter to Brookmeyer's West Village apartment, McFarland brought the score to one of his compositions, "Weep". As Brookmeyer recalls, the newcomer was "a complete original". He told McFarland to bring the piece to a CJB rehearsal; within a year, the band recorded "Weep" and "Chuggin"' and, later on, three other McFarland compositions. Creed Taylor, the new head of Verve Records, took an interest in McFarland, and the erstwhile fledgling became one of the most important new writ­ing talents in New York. "I used to look at his scores and try to figure out how they got to sound that way, because they looked wrong on paper," says Brookmeyer. "He apparently hadn't had a whole lot of history of any kind, and he didn't know enough to be like anybody else. So he developed his own way of writing, and I was really interested in him because he was so individual."

McFarland himself credited Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Gil Evans and, most of all, Miles Davis as his biggest influences, and though one can hear all of them in his writing, one primarily hears a musician with a very personal melodic gift and a unique sense of orchestral color and texture. (I once had the opportunity to examine the scores to McFarland's October Suite, written in 1966 for pianist Steve Kuhn, and was amazed at how simple the individual parts were, consid­ering how dense they sounded cumulatively.)


McFarland's first album as a leader was a jazz adaptation of the score of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the hit satirical Broadway show with words and music by Frank Loesser. Though the original score had exceptional moments (I Believe in You in particular), it was hardly as fertile musically as My Fair Lady. That McFarland succeeded in fashioning from this material one of the most memorable "jazz versions of" — an overworked genre in the late Fifties and early Sixties — is a trib­ute to his resourcefulness. Not the least of his talents was the ability to put together a crack all-star band and write perceptively for its squad of soloists. …”

Bill wasn’t kidding about putting together “a crack all-star band” as Gary assembled the likes of Doc Severinsen, Bernie Glow and Clark Terry and Herb Pomeroy in the trumpet section, Bob Brookmeyer, Willie Dennis and Billy Byers in the trombone section, a reed section made up of Ed Wasserman, Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Oliver Nelson and Sol Schlinger, Hank Jones on piano either Jim Hall or Kenny Burrell on guitar, George Duvivier or Joe Benjamin on bass and Mel Lewis or Osie Johnson on drums for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

It must have been immensely satisfying for Gary to take his “voyage of discovery” as a Jazz composer-arranger into the New York studios with a band comprised of the likes of these musicians.

All of it beginning with the idealism and a passion of youth and the desire to do it.

Gary died under tragic circumstance in 1971 at the young age of thirty-eight [38].


We always wondered what might have happened if Gary McFarland had crossed paths with Stan Kenton during the 1960’s?

In our recently published feature on composer arranger Pete Rugolo, Bill Russo, who followed Pete in the role of chief arranger with the Kenton band, reflected: “Stan's encouragement of his arrangers was powerful and convinc­ing—he got people to do things they might not otherwise have done. He always tried to get the best out of people and frequently succeeded.”

Pete Rugolo shared: "I guess that an arranger's idea of paradise is some place where he can write anything he wants to and still manage to make a living. That's why I felt like I was walking through the pearly gates when, fresh from the army, I went to work with Stan Kenton. Not only could I arrange the way I wanted to, but I could even compose originals and know they'd be heard. To make the situation more unbelievable, Stan never said 'Don't do it this way' or 'Don't do it that way.' He was willing to try anything so long as he felt the writer really meant what he was saying.”

What with Stan’s life-long interest in extended, symphonic-like compositions continuing with his Neophonic Orchestra in the mid-1960’s as well as his movement to more rock-inflected Jazz as a result of the young musicians then coming on the Kenton band who were comfortable with both Jazz and Rock, Gary McFarland’s adroit handling of Jazz suites inflected with aspects of Rock might have made for an interesting pairing.

Kenton and McFarland may have been to the Kenton band of the 1970’s what Kenton and Rugolo were to the band’s musical style in the 1940’s. Alas, it was not to be as Gary died at the beginning of the decade and Kenton would pass before the end of it.

One can perhaps get an idea of what such a McFarland-Kenton pairing might have sounded like by listening to the excerpt that forms the audio track to the following video tribute to Gary.


My favorite among Gary’s extended compositions, the full suite is in six-parts and is entitled America The Beautiful: An Account of its Disappearance [DCC Jazz DJZ-615]The work is still available both as a CD and as an Mp3 download.

The title is reflective of the fledgling ecology movement which was gathering momentum in the USA in the 1960’s thanks to the work of authors such as Rachel Carson and Marya Mannes and biologist Paul Ehrlich.

The music on the video is from the Second Movement which is entitled 80 Miles An Hour Through Beer-Can County.

The work begins quietly with horns and strings in dissonance before a strong rhythmic riffs kicks in around 2:00 minutes. These rhythmic pulsations suspend at 3:05 minutes when Warren Berhhardt’s solo piano enters to beautifully state the movement’s main melody before the rock portion engages at about 4:40 minutes.

The guitar solo is by Eric Gayle, Chuck Rainey is the bassist with Bernard Perdie is on drums. George Ricci plays the cello solo, the violin concertmaster is Gene Orloff and the oboe part which brings the movement to a close is played by Romeo Penque.

Also heard in the piece are tuba played by Harvey Phillips, the French Horns of Ray Alonge and Jimmy Buffington and a trumpet section made up of Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal, Marvin Stamm and Snooky Young.

The loss of Gary McFarland at the ridiculously young age of 38 has to be one of the Jazz World’s greatest tragedies.  I would have liked to hear what other music he would have created during his personal, voyage of discovery.



Gary McFarland: New Writer in Town by Martin Williams

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



The following essay appeared in the March 1, 1962 edition of Down Beat and was written by the distinguished Jazz critic and author Martin Williams.


It is hard to imagine that the career of Gary McFarland would be over less than 10 years later when he died from ingesting a poison that was accidentally or intentionally put into his drink at the 55 Bar in New York City.


For all intents and purposes, Gary became one of the “Sad Young Men” that Anita O’Day sang about in the Verve LP that Gary arranged for her around the time that Martin Williams was writing his article for Down Beat.


I was reminded of the point-in-time relevance of Martin’s piece after viewing Kristian St. Clair’s award-winning biopic, This Is Gary McFarland: The Jazz Legend Who Should Have Been A Pop Star.


"The name of  vibraharpist-composer-arranger Gary McFarland has been showing  up  on several jazz LPs recently.


He contributed pieces called Weep and Chuggin’ to the Gerry Mulligan band's A Concert in Jazz. He wrote several lines for Johnny Hodges' Blue Hodge, including the title piece. He did all the arranging (and much of the selecting of tunes as well) for Anita O'Day's forthcoming recital, All the Sad Young Men. His work also will be represented on forthcoming records by Ray Brown and Bob Brookmeyer. And the Modern Jazz Quartet performs his lovely Why Are You Blue?, usually with a compliment to McFarland's talent in John Lewis' announcement.


Who is Gary McFarland, and how did he rise rather quietly to his current position of acceptance as an arranger and writer for jazz groups?


He is a young man, born in Los Angeles in 1933, who developed a liking of jazz as a youngster in the not-too-propitious town of Grants Pass, Ore., where his family moved when he was 15.


"It was during my year and a half at the University of Oregon that I began to listen to jazz records with some discrimination, or I hope with some discrimination," he said. "I had heard jazz before, of course, and liked it. I loved boogie woogie. I liked Lester Young, and I liked Miles Davis. I used to pester a record shop owner in Oregon for jazz records, and I was probably the only one who did, so he didn't keep many in stock. But I did manage to get some of the Miles Davis nontet things, Move, Budo, and others. The texture of those pieces fascinated me, although at the time I had no idea how it was done.


"I also listened then to some Woody Herman things, Lemon Drop particularly, and Early Autumn. I was aware of Gerry Mulligan's writing then, when his first quartet things appeared, they made quite an impression. Everything seemed so orderly, although they were nothing like so formal as his scores for the Miles Davis group. I was hearing other things that were not quite so cool, too. I remember particularly the Dig album by Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. I got to know that at Oregon.


"Looking back, I think that anything that had a real bluesy quality really got to me then and still does."


In 1954, McFarland went into the Army and at Fort Sill in Oklahoma started to play. A musician friend there, he said, tried to get him over what he calls his "terrible laziness."


McFarland picked vibes, not because, he said, he liked the instrument, and not because of anybody who played them, but just because it seemed easy to play.

After the Army, McFarland spent a great deal of time almost wandering up and down the West Coast.


He went to visit a brother in San Jose in 1957, and he soon was giving education another try at the San Jose City College.


"I was playing no vibes — didn't even own a set — and I was not really involved in music then," he said, "but I met a man there named Santiago Gonzales who had a local quartet, and we became friendly.


"All the while I had kept hearing my own tunes in my head, even when I had lost all intention of working in music. One day, as Gonzales and I were talking, I started to play a melody on the piano. I have no idea how I harmonized it, but I was playing the line. He liked it immediately and encouraged me. He told me that anybody who could do that should work seriously as a musician.


"He also told me how lazy I was. I played him a piece I called High Priest — for Monk — and he really dug it. That very evening, he had his quartet do it and had me play it with them. It felt wonderful! All of a sudden I had something I was really interested in. I had never even tried to learn to read music till then, and I certainly couldn't write it, but then I started to learn.


"I was married in the spring of 1958, and I am sure that helped stabilize me, too."

Soon McFarland had moved with Santiago and the group to San Francisco. He was still writing melodies for them and learning. At this point, he found out in Down Beat about scholarships to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.


"The group and I taped six things that I had written." he said. "Then I phoned Ralph Gleason, and he took the time in his very busy life to listen to them. He encouraged me greatly. I also needed some letters from musicians to apply to Berklee, and Cal Tjader and Buddy Montgomery helped me there. And I had also approached John Lewis and he said why not also try for the School of Jazz at Lenox, Mass.—with a stern warning about how much hard work was ahead."


In August, 1959, McFarland attended the School of Jazz as composer and vibraphonist.


"I did my first writing for horns at the School of Jazz, and I learned a lot," he said. "Chiefly, I learned how very confused and amateurish I had been before."

McFarland was back at Lenox in 1960, but, meanwhile, put in a semester at the Berklee School, and while there he had a chance to work with the Herb Pomeroy Band at the Stable.


"Then I really learned," McFarland recalled. "I was very lucky to be working with Herb. He never gave orders, but he always encouraged me. He always tried out everything I brought in and rehearsed it carefully. Altogether I did about 15 arrangements. Some of them he didn't use, and I began to realize that in those particularly, I wasn't really writing for the men in that band. As soon as this began to dawn on me, he would say, 'Just write, but write for the men/ It was an essential lesson."


McFarland said he thinks that this is what Duke Ellington has always done and why he is so great.


"When I first heard him in person at the Music Barn at Lenox, I was completely taken," he said. "Those men can go up on the stand looking so down, but the moment they begin to play, it's magnificent. Have you heard Suite Thursday”? Especially that last section!


"Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington are really my favorite writers—and Gil Evans. And Mulligan especially taught me to build things, to structure for climaxes. But I think Miles Davis is still my biggest influence."


McFarland was recently asked by Verve a&r man Creed Taylor to do the writing for a jazz LP of the score of the well-received musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.


Transforming an unfamiliar score into jazz material is not an easy job. Although musical comedy has supplied the jazz repertory with plenty of material, what is effective on stage is not always effective as jazz.


"Most of the pieces in How to Succeed are made fairly simple to fit the plot and characters of the show," he said. "As I began to work on them, I realized that that simplicity was a big help in rephrasing them. Then, when we started lining up the band, well! Al Cohn, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Phil Woods, Oliver Nelson, Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell — you can depend on them to make music out of almost anything. I reminded myself to write for them. I made each piece to feature one or two of them. I would ask myself, 'How would Clark or Bob or Al phrase this line?' write it that way, and then give them solos. They made it very easy."


Brookmeyer's comment: "Al Cohn and I have given Gary McFarland fair warning — if he gets any better we are going to shoot him." “                  

Big Band Bossa Nova: Stan Getz and Gary McFarland


From this vantage point, it is difficult to remember back to when the beautiful bossa nova melodies swept the USA in the early 1960s as a prelude to the psychedelic rock craze that closed that decade with The Beatles lodged somewhere in between.

Musical styles moved rapidly during that transitional decade and so did a lot of other socio-cultural developments. 


Many of bossa nova composers explained that the music was intended as a blending of "cool" Jazz sounds with a lighter samba rhythm so as to dial down the intensity of the street Samba which is so noisily characteristic of the Brazilian carnivals.


Unfortunately, the bossa nova did not prevail as an international musical trend, but it was nice while it lasted. 


© -Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.




Fresh from the sudden success of Jazz Samba and "Desafinado," Stan Getz asked the 28-year-old, strikingly gifted Gary McFarland to arrange a bossa nova album for big band as a follow-up. Getz is always his debonair, wistful, freely-floating self, completely at home in the Brazilian idiom that he'd adopted only a few months before. – Richard Ginell www.allmusic.com

Getz’s melodic gift was never more evident; even the way he plays "straight" melody is masterful. Few jazzmen have had this gift - Lester Young did - and it has to do with singing by means of an instrument, for Getz doesn't just play a solo, he sings it,… - Don DeMichael

Recorded in 1962, Stan Getz’s Big Band Bossa Nova [Verve V6-8494, CD 825771-2] which features his tenor sax in a series of magnificent arrangements by Gary McFarland is an album from a time when the world was awash in good music. 

Mainly through his early association with composers Antonio Carlos Jobim, João  Gilberto and João’s wife, vocalist Astrud, Getz was to become personified [and made quite wealthy] by his association with the bossa nova music from Brazil that became an international sensation in the early 1960s.


Lyrics were such a powerful and intriguing part of the bossa nova movement that it was initially unusual for instrumental-only versions of the music to succeed.

Big Band Bossa Nova was one of those early instrumental-only success LP’s. Getz, who had such a beautiful tone on the tenor saxophone that some musicians referred to him as “The Sound,” plays beautifully throughout, no doubt inspired in part by McFarland superbly developed and orchestrated arrangements.

Thanks to a friend in New Zealand whose collection of criticism and writings about Jazz appears to be equal to or greater than his [quite vast] collection of the recordings themselves, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles is able to share the following reviews of Big Band Bossa Nova which appeared in the Jazz press around the time of the album’s release.

Also included to further familiarize the reader with the album and its music are Gary McFarland’s and esteemed Jazz author Dom Cerulli’s liner notes to the original LP.

While Stan Getz was to go on and have a long and distinguished career, quite sadly, Gary McFarland passed away, under mysterious circumstances, at the very young age of 38.

For those interested in delving further into Gary’s music please checkout the website lovingly maintained in his honor by Douglas Payne.


Liner Notes to the Verve LP Big Band Bossa Nova [V6-8494]

“My first exposure to bossa nova was in the Spring of 1960 when a friend played a recording by João  Gilberto, a Brazilian guitarist and vocalist. I liked it immediately. Naturally, I responded to the rhythm, but it was more than that. There seemed to be more underplay, more subtlety than in other Latin rhythms but with just as much buzz or intensity. The songs had interesting chord progressions, and the melodic intervals were more modern than in traditional samba melodies. I'm sure that Gilberto's singing had much to do with my response to this music. His voice has an indefinable quality- something close to melancholy, but not quite.

I asked a Brazilian friend about the bossa nova, and he explained that it is a variation of the samba with modern harmonies and more syncopation than the traditional samba. He also told me that the first reaction in Brazil to this new music was similar to the American public's reaction to be-bop in the 40's- it was misunderstood by the traditionalists. However, it is now more widely accepted.
When Stan asked me to write an album for him, he told me to do anything I wanted. I had written a few bossa nova arrangements for Cal Tjader's group, and Stan had recorded a jazz samba album with Charlie Byrd. We both enjoyed working with this music, so we decided to do a big-band album with four songs by Brazilian composers and four songs of mine.

MANHA DE CARNIVAL (Morning Of The Carnival) is a theme from BLACK ORPHEUS. When I saw the movie, 1 was deeply touched by the gentle melody. In keeping with this mood is Jim Hall's treatment of the introduction on unamplified guitar. Following Stan's statement of the theme is an interlude in 5/4 leading into the guitar solo.

BALANCO NO SAMBA (Street Dance) was inspired by the film BLACK ORPHEUS, particularly the street scenes with the marching bands romping, the people dancing and yelling. This is more like a traditional fast samba. 1 think the band got a real happy feeling on this song.

MELANCOLICO (Melancholy) is another tune of mine. Stan plays the verse, the band enters, and he states the melody. The piano solo is by Hank Jones.

ENTRE AMIGOS (Sympathy Between Friends). Stan's phrasing on this tune is, as always, extremely lyrical. After Stan's solo the trumpets play a 16-bar figure that is typical of the high level of their performance on the entire date.

CHEGA DE SAUDADE (Too Much Longing) was also written by Jobim and is one of the best-constructed songs I have ever heard. Notice the restatement of the original minor theme in major during the last 16 bars of the song. Doc Severinsen introduces the melody in the opening statement. Stan begins his solo and is joined by Bob Brookmeyer for 32 measures, leading into the complete statement of the melody. Doc's sensitive handling of the introduction and the interplay between Stan and Bob are high points.


NOITE TRISTE (Night Sadness) is a song of mine. The melody is first stated out of tempo by Hank Jones and then restated by Stan leading into his solo. Drummer Johnny Rae plays Chinese finger cymbals on the first 16 bars of the solo.
SAMBA DE UMA NOTA SO (One Note Samba) was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, a composer-arranger who works with Gilberto on most of his albums. I have a lot of respect for Jobim's work. This is a song I heard Gilberto sing, and I thought it would be a good ensemble piece.

BIM BOM, by Joao Gilberto, is a lilting melody in the lighter spirit of bossa nova. Solos by Stan and Jim sustain this happy feeling.

I am indebted to the whole band for making the always difficult task of recording much easier. Drummer Johnny Rae did a wonderful job of heading the rhythm section; his experience in Latin music made him an invaluable asset to the band.

About Stan - well, his is a unique talent. In the strong romantic quality of his playing, in his regard for the melody and the spirit of a song, he is perfectly in tune with bossa nova.”

GARY McFARLAND

DOWNBEAT 1962  Rating:*****

This is one of the most musical albums I've ever heard. And, please, let's drop the pigeonhole bit- it doesn't make a great deal of difference if this music is called jazz, bossa nova, or what.

And Getz. . . . His playing is flowing, lyrical, inventive, beautifully songlike -commonplace words all, and none describe adequately or even come close. Those words don't capture that sad-glad feeling he achieves on Melancolico or Entre Amigos. Nor can they substitute for hearing his tenor line rise like a dove from a descending trumpet figure on Melancolico; it lasts but a moment, but it's just one of many little diamonds strewn through this record.

Getz’s melodic gift was never more evident; even the way he plays "straight" melody is masterful. Few jazzmen have had this gift - Lester Young did - and it has to do with singing by means of an instrument, for Getz doesn't just play a solo, he sings it, as can be heard on any of these tracks, most evidently on Noite Triste and Chega De Saudade.


The most remarkable performance in the album is Chega De Saudade, a lovely tune by Antonio Carlos Jobim. It begins with Severinsen's unaccompanied trumpet and gradually builds, like a flower unfolding its beauty. Following Getz1 first solo, he and Brookmeyer engage in a twining duet, as if they were dancing around each other's phrases- it's a wonderful moment.

McFarland shares in the artistic success of the album. His writing is peerless. With what he's shown on this effort and his own adaptation of 'How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' released earlier this year, he looms large as an outstanding writer. He knows the proper combination of instruments to achieve certain sounds, and he has the taste not to use all the instruments at hand all the time. His sparing use of the ensemble allows the beauty of the soloist and the material to shine through.

Perhaps McFarland's mastery of writing in song form explains his taste in orchestration, for the four songs he contributed (Balanco No Samba, Melancolico, Entre Amigos, and Noite Triste ) are much, much more than record-date lines. Others deserving credit for their work on the album are Jim Hall, for his sensitive unamplified accompaniment and for his solos on Manha De Carnival and Bim Bom; Hank Jones, whose taste matches that of Getz and McFarland. as can be heard on his out-of-tempo Noite Triste theme statement; and Johnny Rae, for general excellence (his use of finger cymbals behind Getz on Noite Triste is a perfect touch).

But it's still Getz who is most responsible for the beauty of the album. This record, 'Focus', and 'Jazz Samba', all issued this year, plus the quality of his 1962 in-person performances - well, most of them - lead me to believe Getz is at the height of his creative powers. And he sure wasn't a slouch before.”

Don DeMichael

JAZZ MONTHLY April 1963

“Gary McFarland, who arranged all the numbers here and conducted the band, wrote Balanco No Samba, Melancolico, Entre Amigos, and Noite Triste in the style of such native Brazilian bossa nova composers as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Louis Bonfa. In recent months McFarland has been the arranger on a number of records and has contributed several pleasant melodic themes, but it is still too early to detect any very clear personality in his work.

The bossa nova is, to all intents and purposes, a samba played with jazz overtones, the themes using more 'modern' chord progressions and the rhythm being more subtle than is the case with most of the older sambas. I find the work of Bonfa in particular very interesting in the compositional field but while the idiom provides an attractive means of varying the content of a jazz LP I suspect that too many records solely devoted to it will prove a little wearisome. This is by the way, of course, for this present release is the best of its kind that I have heard to date.


Stan Getz is a particularly good choice to carry the main solo role, for his style, although it has developed more strength over the past few years, is notable for a melodic awareness that fits aptly with the thematic content to be heard in the best of bossa nova. The lightness and grace of his work on Chega de Saudade and Bim Bom is immensely attractive - these are perhaps the best tracks on the LP- but one must not overlook the fact that graceful as the outlines of his solos may be they do not lack, as was sometimes the case in his earliest records, the necessary swing. Throughout this LP the impressive aspect of Getz's playing is the balance between refinement and rhythmic strength, illustrated very well on his finely constructed solos on the two tracks already mentioned and on Manha De Carnival and Balanco No Samba. The only other soloist to be heard at length is Jim Hall who is also playing better than before, with a continuity previously lacking, and he is heard to best advantage on Manha De Carnival and Bim Bom.

Two points which bossa nova can claim credit for is far superior themes than one hears in the case of the average jazz 'original' and the guiding of guitarists to the potentialities of their instrument in its unamplified form. Bossa nova may be something in the nature of a gimmick in its exploitation by the record companies but when a musician of Getz's talent uses it this LP proves that it can be stimulating and melodically attractive. I think that most readers will find this a very worthwhile LP, the playing time being rather short at 33 1/2 minutes, and the recording excellent.”

Albert McCarthy


"Wish Me Well" - The Music of Gary McFarland by the Mark Masters Ensemble

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Gary McFarland was unknown at twenty-eight when he turned up at a 1961 rehearsal [of Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band] with two pieces, "Weep" and "Chuggin'," profoundly influenced by Ellington and Strayhorn.

When he died tragically ten years later, his reputation had been sullied by several com­mercial projects. But the McFarland that Mulligan sent on his way was an impressive writer (he soon fulfilled his promise with The Jazz Version of How To Succeed in Business, Point of Departure, and The October Suite), with an ear for melody and the ability to layer rhythms in the wind sections.

Like Bob Brookmeyer and Thad Jones, McFarland extended El­lington's harmonic density, employing what the arranger and educator Rayburn Wright called "grinds"—major and minor seconds woven into the voicings.”
- Gary Giddins, Visions of Jazz [p.362-363]

“This recording is a culmination of something that started almost thirty years ago when Roger Rickson put into my hands Gary McFarland's Skye LP Today (1970), that led to my hearing everything else McFarland had written, including his brilliant album conceived for pianist Steve Kuhn The October Suite (1966).

A gifted arranger, wonderful tunesmith and musical chameleon, McFarland was a person who put his stamp of individuality on everything he touched. Had he lived longer and continued to grow musically, he would be held in the same high esteem today as Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Holman, and Gil Evans. The immediacy of his writing and the poignant nature of his songs, many of them tinged with more than a bit of melancholy, is undeniable.

The American Jazz Institute is pleased to present this project, the first of its kind, built around Gary McFarland's music. Our endeavor was to use McFarland's music as a springboard for these wonderful musicians to sing their own songs. This recording is dedicated to a great teacher and friend, Jack Montrose, who passed away in 2005.
—Mark Masters, Musical Director of the American Jazz Institute

What do Granchan Moncur III, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Clifford Brown, Steely Dan, Jimmy Knepper, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, and the Duke Ellington saxophone section have in common?

Give up?

The music of each of these artists has been the focus of a reinterpretation by composer-arranger Mark Master who also heads up an organization called The American Jazz Institute.

Each musician’s compositional oeuvre becomes the object of a year-long arranging “project” for Mark who often puts on concerts of the reinterpreted music featuring musicians who have evolved, over the years, into ongoing members of the Mark Masters Ensemble.

After the musicians have had a chance to rehearse the music associated with these projects and perform it in concert, Mark then takes the ensemble into the recording studio to save the music for posterity. Some of it is issued on a self-produced basis, but more recently, many have been issued on Capri Records and you can locate copies of these AJI CDs via online vendors or order them through the AJI website.


Kristian St. Clair’s informative and well-written insert notes provide the following encompassing overview of the Masters McFarland Project.
“All but forgotten, Gary McFarland has long been relegated by jazz history to footnote status, usually only mentioned for his break-out work as an arranger/composer for Gerry  Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band  in the early Sixties. The conventional wisdom goes something like this: Brilliant self-taught arranger composer showed great promise but squandered his talents on easy listening projects in the late sixties and died young. As is often the case with conventional wisdom, it is wrong, and anyone who has cared to dig a little deeper into McFarland's oeuvre will know this to be so.

One of these people is Los Angeles-based arranger and composer Mark Masters. Masters likes to tell the story of how an early mentor turned him on to McFarland's 1970 LP Today. That particular album was dismissed by many who should have known better as one of those "easy listening" projects. Those who have heard this particular album have been moved and inspired by McFarland's spare arrangements for flute, cello, trombone and his own vibraphone and vocals. For Masters, it was obviously an intimidating task to arrange an arranger's compositions, but Masters has succeeded with aplomb, quietly paying homage to McFarland's unique style and underscoring the pieces on this record with his own unique style.

This current album had its origins in a concert of Gary McFarland's music Mark Masters staged in early 2002 which featured Gary Smulyan as the guest soloist. That concert was a success and Masters resolved to make an album of his arrangements, augmented by some new ones specially crafted for this album. For anyone already familiar with McFarland's music, this album will be a treat, as it includes three never-before-recorded compositions, two of which were written for but never recorded by Gerry Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band. If you're new to McFarland, this album will be a great introduction. Either way, this album is a joyful revisitation of McFarland's abundant musical talents. McFarland died in 1971 at the age of 38, so there won't be any "new" McFarland albums on the horizon. This one is the next best thing.

Tree Tops, the album opener, is one of the three never-before-recorded    McFarland tunes, which is given a great treatment by Mark Masters with a light and loping vamp in the background that gives way to great solo work by trumpeter Tim Hagans, pianist Steve Kuhn, and baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. The piece is no doubt an ode to McFarland's rural upbringing in Grant's Pass Oregon during the late forties and early fifties. Next up is Monk's Sphere, another unrecorded piece, originally written and performed during McFarland's stay at the Lennox School of Music in 1959. His classmates then included Steve Kuhn, Ornette Coleman, Margo Guryan, and Don Ellis. The faculty included Bill Evans, John Lewis, and Max Roach. On this one, dig the bluesy trombone solo by Dave Woodley.

Weep, Chuggin' and Kitch were tunes all written for and performed by the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band and helped cement McFarland's reputation in early sixties New York City. Weep and Chuggin' both hark back to one of McFarland's primary influences. Duke Ellington, and were his Verve Records debut on the Mulligan LP A Concert in Jazz. Masters' reworking of Weep features outstanding solo work from studio-vet Gary Foster who has recorded with everyone from Milt Jackson to Bob Dylan. Kitch was never recorded by the Mulligan band and is given its recording debut here with top-notch results from all involved. Tree Patterns is a composition that originally appeared on the criminally neglected Gary McFarland/ Bill Evans collaboration that appeared in 1963 after the pianist had signed with Verve. The original arrangement was for string quartet augmented by a few reeds and Bill Evans' delicate solos. Here, Masters fleshes it out in a more muscular big-band version that is propelled forward by great solo work from Tim Hagans on trumpet, Gary Smulyan and bassist Darek Oles.

Summer Day was originally recorded during McFarland's one semester stay at Berklee School of Music in Boston, before he made the move to New York. I Love to Say Her Name was written for Gary's wife Gail and originally appeared on McFarland's Point of Departure album for Impulse in 1964. It is a joyous and buoyant composition that Masters turns into a great showcase for baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. Why are You Blue? is an evergreen composition that has been recorded by the likes of Bob Brookmeyer, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Johnny Hodges. There is a great story of McFarland writing out charts for the Hodges recording session. The band did one run through of the arrangements the way McFarland had written them and then afterwards Hodges turned to the band and said, "Now forget about the arrangement." It was a great early lesson on in-studio spontaneity that McFarland carried with him through his mid-sixties bossa-jazz projects Soft Samba and The In Sound.

Of special mention on this album are the tunes Gary's Waltz and Wish Me Well, both showcases for pianist Steve Kuhn, a jazz legend in his own right. This album is a bit of a homecoming for Kuhn, who had a close personal friendship with McFarland since they first met at Lennox in 1959. Together, they briefly played on a Stan Getz tour in the early sixties, appeared in a TV special with Getz in 1963, and recorded the now-classic collaboration October Suite in late 1966. McFarland's last released recording project before his untimely death was Steve Kuhn's self-titled Buddah Records debut released in 1972.         

Gary's Waltz was originally recorded by Bill Evans in the late seventies as a tribute to his lost friend. It is a beautiful longing melody that shows off McFarland's profoundly melancholy side. Kuhn starts things off magnificently and Masters gradually enters the proceedings with a few voicing that are reminiscent of, dare I say it, Brian Wilson. As Kuhn's piano builds to a crescendo, the big band comes roaring in for the finish. For anyone familiar with Evans' many recordings of this piece, this new version will be a welcome reinvention.

Wish Me Well closes out the album. It is a wistful and fond farewell,  performed  to  perfection, by Steve Kuhn in a trio setting featuring Bill Evans alumnus Joe La Barbera on drums and Darek Oles on bass. McFarland was always a melodist first and an arranger second and that is very much evident when listening to this haunting piece. It lingers in the mind long after the recording has ended.

Gary McFarland is long gone and all but forgotten, but as long as there are musicians around like Mark Masters, profoundly affected and influenced by the brilliant canon of work McFarland left behind, there is hope that more people will discover the joy, the sadness, and life affirming gift of Gary McFarland and his music.”
—Kristian St. Clair




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