Tal Farlow

A somewhat reluctant jazz star, guitarist Tal Farlow (1921-1998) was one of the top Charlie Christian–influenced guitarists to emerge during the 1950s. Farlow was a late starter, not even playing guitar at all until he was 21. Once he got started, he developed quickly and was playing professionally within a year. He worked with Marjorie Hyams in 1948 and gained fame as a member of the Red Norvo Trio during 1949-1953.


After spending six months with the Artie Shaw Gramercy Five, Farlow put together his own trio and began a series of recordings for Verve. In 1958 he shocked the jazz world by moving to New England and becoming a full-time sign painter, only playing guitar locally now and then. There was a final recording in late 1959, but otherwise little was heard from Farlow on the national jazz scene for a decade.


In 1969 the guitarist recorded The Return of Tal Farlow: 1969 for Prestige. In a quartet with pianist John Scully, bassist Jack Six and drummer Alan Dawson, Farlow showed that he had not lost a thing and that his technique was still in prime form. In fact, he plays so well throughout this date that it is somewhat surprising to realize that this was his only recording during a 17-year period.


After seven more years off the national scene, Tal Farlow returned to performing and recording on a part-time basis in 1976, cutting a series of recordings for the Concord label during the next eight years including On Stage, A Sign of the Times, Tal Farlow ’78, Chromatic Palette, Cookin’ on All Burners, and The Legendary Tal Farlow.


Throughout those dates, which feature such notables as Red Norvo, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Tommy Flanagan, James Williams, and Sam Most, Tal Farlow shows that, even late in life, the reluctant jazz great was one of the best.