Farrell * Guitarist
Doll Johnny Mercer, Billy Strayhorn, Duke
The A Train Billy Strayhorn
Irving Mills, Juan Tizol, Duke Ellington
Time Goes By Herman
et Serenade pour Django Pierre Lerich
Guy Van Duser
Entertainer Scott Joplin
Side Story Suite (I Feel Pretty, Maria, Everything's Free
Medley (Rhapsody in Blue, Summertime, It Ain't Necessarily
So, Bess You Is My Woman, Reprise) George
I started the
guitar at the age of eight after hearing a classmate of mine play a Hawaiian
guitar at a school "Show and Tell". That in itself is a story, but let
it suffice to say that my enthusiasm was such that by the time I was nine
I also wanted to play in the school orchestra. My parents said I'd have
to play a school instrument since they weren't going to buy me another
one. There began my second love ... the string bass. The following year
we moved to a different part of the country where there was no school
orchestra ... but a marching band! Well, it is difficult to march with
a string bass, so I marched with a tuba. The carrot being ... that if
I played tuba for the marching band, the school would let me play string
bass in the swing dance band!
Many years later, the guitar and swing music finally came together for
me during tours for the United States State Department. Up to that point
my performing career was as a classical guitarist (albeit with an eclectic
repertoire). When invited to perform for the State Department it was "suggested"
that a strong American accent be added to my program. After all, the idea
of the State Department's "Arts America" program is to promote the American
experience. Then came the opportunity for me to put together a program
of some of my favorites with jazz standards.
When reviewing the music included here, several incidental memories come
to mind. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say it took years before I knew
that Take Five was not written by Dave Brubeck, but by Paul Desmond.
Caravan, which is not played as often today as other famous swing
pieces, was the biggest hit of the Duke Ellington band. Take the "A"
Train is the only song dedicated to a subway. The plaintive Misty
was written by the fabulous Errol Garner who couldn't read music. Scott
Joplin was very proud of the fact he was one of the few African American
musicians of his generation who could read music.
On a tour of Japan for the State Department, performing the Entertainer
on live television for five million people was quite an experience. I
didn't botch the job and looked like I was having fun ... in fact, I was
petrified! In retrospect, I am grateful not to have been forewarned any
sooner than the day before!
I love the music of the Hot Club de France and am grateful to a Chinese
guitarist friend who introduced me to Introduction et Serenade pour
Django, a work dedicated to that great French jazz guitarist Django
I believe urban America music of the "jazz" era is epitomized by the music
of George Gershwin, in particular his work Rhapsody in Blue. If
any piece can give you a sense of New York at its frantic best, that's
it. In the same way Summertime, Bess You Is My Woman, and
It Ain't Necessarily So from Gershwin's last major work Porgy
and Bess (although a glossy portrayal of the African American experience)
was the first major work to explore the "roots" of jazz and to give it
a big venue, Broadway.
When I was a kid learning the classical guitar in the 60's, one Sunday
night while watching the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour with my parents,
we were treated to a guitarist playing what became one of the most popular
instrumental works of the decade, Classical Gas. Ten years later
another "new" classical guitar work was used in the movie The Deer Hunter.
A great piece of music, Cavatina is one of those rare works that
can speak of regret and at the same time of that very elusive quality,
A favorite for me to perform for foreign audiences is Leonard Bernstein's
West Side Story. It speaks of the American experience with the
difficulties emigrants have in a new country, combined with the story
of Romeo and Juliet; it is truly an American classic. I performed this
on tour in Japan when the yen was going through the ceiling and the dollar
was going through the floor. The audience was delighted that Everything's
Free in America.
P.S. Of course it is well known that Humphrey Bogart did not say, "play
it again Sam" in my favorite movie Casablanca. It's a good thing
we don't forget everything... As Time Goes By...
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