Gary McFarland

|| presented by douglas payne || biography || discography || bibliography || reflections || reviews ||




All The Sad Young Men
Anita O'Day: Verve - 1961

An imaginative, lively setting for one of the more interesting vocalists in jazz. Producer Creed Taylor collected superior New York musicians like Bob Brookmeyer, Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Hank Jones and Barry Galbraith to interpret young novice Gary McFarland's sensitive, swinging charts. O'Day, who's in good form here, was recorded at a later session in Los Angeles, but seamlessly fits in. One notices how McFarland's arrangements enhance Ms. O'Day's vocals but there are enough interesting (yet unobtrusive) orchestral moments to suggest the music would work just as well without vocals too.


The Jazz Version of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying"
The Gary McFarland Orchestra: Verve - 1961

This imaginative jazz reworking of the popular Broadway play served as Gary McFarland's official debut and launched the composer, arranger and vibes man into a sort of jazz super-stardom. It may have been Gerry Mulligan who gave the young composer his first break (the wonderful and much missed A Concert In Jazz). But it was Creed Taylor, avatar at Verve Records, who propelled Gary McFarland's career by collecting New York City's finest jazz musicians to perform these wondrous charts based on tunes from the highly popular musical. Here, there's no mistaking his individual gifts. The charts are lively and exciting. McFarland's playing, quite reminiscent of Milt Jackson, were inspired. And the players are without equal (Oliver Nelson, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Kenny Burrell and Al Cohn). McFarland delivers the goods in a tasty, memorable way. It's inevitable that he'd have nowhere to go but down. A tremendous debut. Paired on CD with Bob Brookmeyer's similar and equally interesting Gloomy Sunday And Other Bright Moments, to which McFarland contributed an arrangement of his own "Why Are You So Blue? (originally performed by the Modern Jazz Quartet).


Trombone Jazz Samba
Bob Brookmeyer: Verve - 1962

One of Gary McFarland's only appearances as a sideman. As a player and an improviser, McFarland's temperament and talents are ideally suited to the complications and sensitivity of samba music. Here, he coalesces perfectly on vibes with leader Brookmeyer on trombone, Jim Hall and Jimmy Raney on guitar and three percussionists (the bass player is unknown). While there are no McFarland originals here, highlights include "Blues Bossa Nova" and "A Felicidade" (with Brookmeyer on piano and an excellent spot for McFarland).


The Gary McFarland Orchestra Featuring
Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans

Verve - issued 1963

A stirring, beautiful score and, ultimately, one of McFarland's finest achievements. His painterly talents to evoke moods succeeds most brilliantly here. The album is like a soundtrack celebrating the excitement of a big urban wonderland. The compositions are first rate, McFarland's occasional vibes playing is simple and perfect. Bill Evans buoys the event with his graceful, individual style. The whole album is perfect; a beautiful moment in jazz. Issued on CD by Universal in Japan in 2004 and by FiveFour in England (with a different cover) in 2005.


Essence
John Lewis/Gary McFarland: Atlantic - issued 1964

A successful union of pianist John Lewis' third-stream stylings and Gary McFarland's deft compositions. There's a unity among each of the songs, despite three recording sessions and differing instrumentation. Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Phil Woods and Eric Dolphy appear. But it is Lewis and guitarist Jim Hall who leave lasting impressions. Deserves to be reissued on CD. Highlights: "Tillamock Two," "Notions" and "Night Float."


Point of Departure
Gary McFarland Sextet: Impulse - issued 1964

Assembling a stellar sextet with intriguing instrumentation, McFarland puts his chops on the line here - and succeeds. In addition to imaginative and memorable originals, McFarland reveals a flair for clever, inspired improvisation. For a studio unit, this is one tight group of complimentary and like-minded musicians. Each is in top form and seems to enjoy being part of the whole. At turns, fiery and swinging, then relaxed and sensitive. Always enjoyable, though. Highlights: "Pecos Pete", "Schlock-House Blues" and "Love Theme From David And Lisa" (the book this film is based on was a McFarland favorite and the film's score by Mark Lawrence is very McFarland like and could easily have influenced McFarland's own score for Eye of the Devil). 


Soft Samba
Gary McFarland: Verve - 1964
aka
Sympathetic Vibrations: Verve - 1969

Misunderstood and highly enjoyable pop-jazz that caught McFarland's growing number of jazz fans by surprise in 1964. I had to listen to it many times to appreciate its charms and understand its appeal (significant in its day). Problems arise trying to make this music fit into some definition of jazz. Really, it's a confection of moods, with occasionally brief statements of improvisation. But it was arranged to be pretty and appealing. Ultimately, it succeeds winningly. Plus, it offers McFarland's innovative Bossa Nova covers of the Beatles' melodic music, a first in jazz. McFarland hums or whistles the themes and occasionally interjects his own brief, songlike solos on vibes or those of Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Spencer Sinatra or Seldon Powell (flute) and Kenny Burrell or Antonio Carlos Jobim (guitars). Really beautiful stuff that deserves serious consideration or at least a second chance (reissued in 1969 as Sympathetic Vibrations). Highlights: "Ringo Won't You Marry Me" (a non-McFarland song that sounds very McFarland like), "A Hard Day's Night," "The Good Life."


"The Dreamer" / "Rivergirl"
Gary McFarland With Guest Artist Guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim
Prestige 45 - 1964

Two pop ballads done bossa nova style, featuring "Guest Artist Guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim." This impossible-to-find 45 marks Gary McFarland's vocal debut. Both tunes have a complete set of lyrics which McFarland sings in a lazy, beatnik sort of style that recalls Mose Allison or Chet Baker. Not much jazz here...but interesting nonetheless. Both songs can be heard on the 2008 CD Sketch of Summer (El!).


The In Sound
Gary McFarland: Verve - 1965

An excellent showcase for Gary McFarland's melodic gifts, The In Sound improves upon the Soft Samba concept with exceptional covers ("The Moment of Truth," "The Sting of the Bee"), some of McFarland's most distinctive originals ("The Hills of Verdugo," "Over Easy," "Fried Bananas"), an increased jazz quotient and tremendous playing. McFarland is spot on throughout, playing with a vigor seldom heard elsewhere. Perhaps he drew inspiration from the superb and simpatico guitar work of fellow Berklee alum, Gabor Szabo. McFarland and Szabo never sounded better together, despite a number of later albums together (Gypsy 66, Profiles, Simpatico, Dreams). Recent Berklee grad, Sadao Watanabe, is a nice but rather mixed-down addition on flute. This may be the best music McFarland ever made; jazz, pop or otherwise. The album is occasionally available on Japanese CD but the previously unissued "Anna", as well as some of the album's better songs were featured on the 1998 CD, Latin Lounge.

About The Cover: Songwriter Margo Guryan had purchased the painting "Fried Egg On A Polka Dot Tablecloth" (1965) by her cousin, pop artist Peter Shulman. Guryan thought it might make a good album cover and interested Creed Taylor in the painting (who wanted to whiten the background). Taylor had chosen the painting for Gary McFarland's record. However, the album's title dismayed Guryan, a former writing partner of McFarland's, since song titles like "Wine And Bread," "Fried Bananas" and especially "Over Easy" seemed to suit the image better. 


The Groovy Sound Of Music 
Gary Burton: RCA - 1964

This little-known gem features young vibist Gary Burton performing renditions of Rodgers & Hammerstein's popular pieces from The Sound Of Music, with a New York City studio orchestra featuring Phil Woods, Steve Swallow, Art Farmer and Bob Brookmeyer. Burton did a wonderful job arranging four of the eight tunes here. The other four tunes ("Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "An Ordinary Couple," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" and "The Sound Of Music") are encased in even more outstanding - and highly individualized - arrangements by fellow vibist and Berklee alum, Gary McFarland. Burton, who had already devised his own signature sound at this point in time, easily stands in for McFarland, a less accomplished vibraphone player. But McFarland's arrangements - a sort of clever nursery rhyme as recited by string quartet alternating with minimal woodwind commentary - are stupendous. Particularly on "Climb" and "An Ordinary Couple," McFarland's inventions are breathtaking: a sort of cross between his own Broadway-goes-jazz of How To Succeed In Business and the much more spectacular and personal The October Suite. Burton sounds natural and reflexive on these melodic pieces, perfectly interacting with McFarland's lovely set dressings. It is a shame such a hidden treasure as The Groovy Sound Of Music can't be appreciated by more of either vibist's fans. It's absolutely worth hearing and savoring.


Latin Shadows
Shirley Scott/Gary McFarland: Impulse - 1965

Terrific set of moody, easy-grooving Latin jazz numbers, highlighting Gary McFarland's agile vibes playing with Shirley Scott's sensitive, piano-like organ. The vibes-organ combination is quite appealing and is perfectly buoyed by Jimmy Raney's guitar. Half the tracks employ a small, tasteful string section (arranged by McFarland) and there are two especially good McFarland compositions: the moody, romantic "Latin Shadows" and the funky, rollicking "Hanky Panky." "Downtown," "Feeling Good" and "Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps" stand out too. Shirley Scott, also a vastly underrated talent, sounds comfortable in this atmospheric environment. But the easy, appealing flavor of this music combined with McFarland's inspired contributions make Latin Shadows one of the more important records in McFarland's career.


Tijuana Jazz
Gary McFarland & Co./Clark Terry: Impulse - 1965

A South of the Border road trip clearly aimed at one-upping Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The sound and the feeling are successfully realized. But there's a sense that these more-talented-than-this musicians are just slumming for sales (well, Chet Baker did it too). Even so, there's much that's quite appealing about this record. McFarland's four originals are well worth hearing. Clark Terry, the source of the album's success, is in superior form and sounds like he's having loads of fun. McFarland's rhythm section is pretty strong too; with McFarland on marimba, Bob Brookmeyer on trombone, Barry Galbraith on guitar, Toots Thielman on guitar and harmonica, Mel Lewis on drums and Willie Bobo on percussion. Highlights: "Acapulco at Night," "Ira Schwartz's Golden Dream" (a tongue-in-cheek ode named for the attorney brother of McFarland's manager, Norman Schwartz, and featuring McFarland on electric piano!), "Mary Jane" (which actually predates the Sesame Street theme to which this bears significant similarity) and even "Fantastic, That's You."


Profiles
Gary McFarland: Impulse -1966

An excellent collection of McFarland originals performed at Lincoln Center by a stellar orchestra of jazz luminaries including Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Zoot Sims, Phil Woods, Richie Kamuca, Richard Davis, Gabor Szabo, Sam Brown and others. The concert showcases some of McFarland's best writing and there is a welcome spontaneity lacking in McFarland's studio recordings, despite several awkward moments. Highlight: "Winter Colors."


Simpatico
Gary McFarland/Gabor Szabo: Impulse -1966

While the vibist and the guitarist had recorded together before (on McFarland's The In Sound and Profiles and Szabo's Gypsy 66), this was their first co-led pairing and one designed specifically to achieve pop stardom. While it didn't actually catch on with rock - or jazz - audiences, Simpatico is a genuinely appealing collection of brief, Beatlesque pop tunes. The leaders spend much of the set singing or vocalizing (not one of the guitarist's strengths) and precious little time playing. Despite the genuine melodicism of much of the music, this collection of poppy originals and rock covers would have fared better if the two leaders kept quiet and made an instrumental album. There are some genuinely enjoyable highlights, though, that include McFarland's "Simpatico" (which appears on the Italian CD compilation, The Morning Side Of Love, issued in May 2002), Szabo's "Spring Song," "Yamaha Mama," and good covers of "Norwegian Wood" and "Nature Boy." Simpatico was issued on CD in Japan in 2008.


"Winter Samba" / "Summer's Gone Away"
Gary McFarland: Impulse 45 - 1966

These two pretty, yet brief, themes revisit McFarland's bossa nova roots. Both tunes feature a small group consisting of flute, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and several stringed instruments. McFarland whistles through the A side and hums with his vibes on side B, but no improvisation is heard on either title. The composer probably produced these tunes himself for an unrealized and unknown project (Impulse bought the tapes). Both songs can be heard on the 2008 CD Sketch of Summer (El!).


Eye of the Devil (Soundtrack)
Gary McFarland: 1966

J. Lee Thompson's film 13, starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, David Hemmings and Sharon Tate, was riddled with so many production problems that it was re-shot, reedited, delayed and finally released in late 1967 under the title Eye of the Devil. McFarland's score, however, is something else. It is a cohesive, beautiful overture employing a full orchestra with voices that successfully conveys the atmospheric, haunting disorientation of the film's heroine (played by Deborah Kerr). The title theme is especially memorable (McFarland has performed it on his own Soft Samba Strings as well as with Steve Kuhn, Zoot Sims and Cal Tjader) and gets its loveliest reading on solo harp at the beginning of the film. The original score was issued in its entirety for the very first-time ever more than four decades after its recording in 2008 by Film Score Monthly, beautifully mastered from the original tapes and superbly annotated by film music scholars Lukas Kendall and John Bender (who lists McFarland's name incorrectly). Very highly recommended.


The October Suite
Steve Kuhn/Gary McFarland: Impulse - issued 1967

Similar in many respects to the Bill Evans suite, this is another brilliant showcase for an inimitable soloist performing McFarland's evocative music. There is much beauty in McFarland's autumnal sadness. The chamber orchestra supporting Kuhn is perfect (simplicity is the soul of invention) and the pianist provides many exciting moments. Highlights: "One I Could Have Loved," "Traffic Patterns" and "St. Tropez Shuttle".


Soft Samba Strings
Gary McFarland: Verve - 1966

Soft Samba Strings was the result of McFarland's fascination with the sound of a large orchestra and vocal choir used for the score of the film, 13. Here, he weds the concept to Bossa Nova rhythms and covers the more romantic side of the classics and a few standards. It's an ambitious concept that unfortunately ends up as little more than mood music. McFarland hums or whistles most of the lines and is only rarely (and briefly) heard on vibes. Although musicians aren't named, some beautiful piano playing (reminiscent of the sound and style of Antonio Carlos Jobim as recorded by Rudy Van Gelder) clearly stands out on several tracks, particularly "Reverie." Not as interesting as it could have been. Highlights: "One I Could Have Loved" and "Reverie". Soft Samba Strings has been issued on CD several times but available only in Japan. 


Waiting Game
Zoot Sims: Impulse - 1966

Very similar in sound and style to McFarland's Soft Samba Strings, but a bit more interesting. Zoot Sims provides a strong Getz-like presence to the romantic sax-and-strings proceedings and a nice Bossa Nova rhythm section keeps things percolating. McFarland experiments rather intriguingly with harp counterpoints that add a special flavor too.


"Summer Love"/"For Once In My Life"
Julius La Rosa: ABC Paramount 45 - 1967

Like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett, Julius La Rosa is one of the "golden throat" vocalists of the post-war era whose interpretations showed a strong and sincere understanding of the lyrics he sung. He recorded prolifically during the 1950s and 1960s, scoring a hit with "Eh Cumpari" in 1953. Gary McFarland, who La Rosa fondly recalls as "one of the good-est people I've ever worked with," was commissioned to provide charts for one of the singer's Las Vegas gigs. McFarland also performed with La Rosa in Las Vegas and the two later collaborated on this 45 from 1967. "Summer Love," a melodically moody pop ballad, could have fit well on McFarland's own Scorpio And Other Signs album while "For Once In My Life" (different from the better-known version made popular by Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder) presages some of the beautiful orchestrations McFarland concocted for his and others' Skye recordings. Both songs briefly feature McFarland's vibes and some very fine use of strings. 


Scorpio and Other Signs
Gary McFarland: Verve - 1968

Another pop collection; this time framed by a (rather inconsequential) astrological concept. All originals by McFarland. So witty and light it sometimes feels like a jazz album made for children. McFarland's vibes take several nice turns here and his vocalese has never sounded more natural. First-rate lounge music with some nice jazzy touches. Musicians aren't named, but are probably similar to his Skye debut, which was recorded a few weeks later: Marvin Stamm, Sam Brown, Richard Davis and Warren Bernhardt.


Solar Heat
Cal Tjader: DCC - 1968

The first Skye Recording. This lush Latin pop concoction was a logical step forward for vibist Cal Tjader, one of the three principles in the ambitious Skye project. But the success of Solar Heat is due to the significant input of fellow Skye-mate, Gary McFarland (the two worked together briefly in 1964 for Verve, and Cal Tjader was one of McFarland's earliest advocates). It is McFarland's sprite, uncluttered arrangements, his pristine signature production, song choices (including McFarland's "Fried Bananas" and the formerly titled "Theme From 13," "Eye of the Devil"), the unusual addition in some places of his vibes to Tjader's and the interesting addition of Joao Donato on organ. Like Scott/McFarland's Latin Shadows (Impulse: 1965), this 1968 outing remains one of the finest, most easily enjoyable sessions McFarland ever did. And it's one of Tjader's best Latinized pop-jazz offerings too (though it's easily categorized in today's hipper Lounge/Exotica brigade) . Highlights: "Ode to Billy Joe" (!), "Never My Love," "Mambo Sangria," "Fried Bananas," "La Bamba" and "Solar Heat."


Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon
Gary McFarland & Company: DCC - 1968

Mix the lounge-jazz sensibilities of Soft Samba with the instrumentation of Scorpio And Other Signs and you get Does The Sun Really Shine On The Moon, McFarland's 1968 debut album for his own Skye label. Unfortunately, this disc - which does not contain its title song - isn't quite the artistic match of McFarland's past glories. There is very little jazz here, although the musicians - which include Jerome Richardson, Marvin Stamm, Sam Brown, Richard Davis, Grady Tate and Warren Bernhardt - are each talented creatives. Each of the 11 tunes are too brief to allow much more than the statement of the theme (only one track exceeds three minutes). As "mood" music, though, this is a winning release; if not a rather sad, reflective and melancholy one. McFarland shows a gift for taking other people's material ("God Only Knows," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Here, There and Everywhere") and stamping it with a distinct personality that would make you swear these tunes were his. There's only one McFarland original (a good, yet speedy take on his familiar "Flea Market") but the leader's work on vibes throughout is rewarding - and he especially shines on the superb, yet brief "O Morro." Although the group coalesces perfectly and McFarland's production - as with each of his Skye Recordings - is outstanding, the final result could have used a bit more fire. Highlights: "Lady Jane," "Flea Market," "O Morro" and "Three Years Ago."


Latin Kaleidoscope
The Clarke-Boland Big Band: Prestige/MPS - 1968

Gary McFarland’s six-part "Latin Kaleidoscope" is a joy to discover – much as it was to first hear his creations for Stan Getz on 1962’s Big Band Bossa Nova (to which this Latin suite bears some distinct similarities). His trademark is simple, invigorating themes with a memorable, childlike quality. "Latin Kaleidoscope" offers much evidence of his gifts. Boland, who added his own touches to this suite, never takes a solo throughout and is occasionally heard on harpsichord; a sensitive touch to sensitively considered music. And excellent solos are taken by Sahib Shihab ("Duas Rosas"), Ronnie Scott ("Uma Fita de Tres Cores") and Aki Persson ("Ollios Negros"). Also includes Francy Boland’s excellent "Cuban Fever" suite.


Genesis
Wendy & Bonnie: Skye - 1968

A rather lovely time-capsule from another era, Genesis is the product of sisters Wendy and Bonnie Flower (yes, their real name), who were 17 and 13 respectively in 1968 when they made this, their only recording together. Their harmonies are heavenly and the pair's songwriting is remarkably mature, if not a bit time-locked in its flower-power era. The sisters came to Skye Records through their godfather, Skye co-owner Cal Tjader. Gary McFarland's production here provides a gorgeous, clear distillation of sound and remains one of his finest-ever productions. Skye co-owner Gabor Szabo was in the studios as well, encouraging the young girls to their fine performance (although the guitarist doesn't play on the date). A first-rate group of LA studio musicians, highlighted by organist Mike Melvoin (father of a different Wendy, of Wendy & Lisa fame), accent the duo sparingly and in a way that was probably meant to be radio friendly. The ultra-rare and highly admired album was beautifully restored to CD in 2001 by Irwin Chusid (of the Raymond Scott Appreciation Society), who also provides a beautiful set of insightful notes about the sisters - who are longtime friends - as well as five bonus tracks that further the Flowers' legacy (on Sundazed Music).


America the Beautiful
Gary McFarland: Skye - issued 1969

Arguably McFarland's masterwork, this emotionally and intellectually provoking orchestral suite is a quasi-political/social statement. The music paints a portrait of confusion, disenchantment and anger and leaves an impression of sad resignation to a doomed fate. McFarland designs a classical framework and journeys through rock, jazz and the blues to make his points. A challenging, but not always uplifting listen. Highlight: "On This Site Shall Be Erected." Available on CD. (The May 1, 1969, issue of Down Beat magazine reported that in conjunction with the release of this album, Gary McFarland was honored by a group called the Artists' Resistance Movement, a group apparently founded to stir public reaction against the deterioration of America's natural resources and treasures.)


Slaves
Grady Tate/Gary McFarland Orchestra: Skye - 1969

From a long-forgotten film starring Ossie Davis and Dionne Warwick comes Bobby (A Taste Of Honey) Scott’s unfortunately undistinguished score. Gary McFarland arranges and conducts the "Gary McFarland Orchestra" in performance of Scott’s score and drummer Grady Tate sings Bob Kessler’s lyrics for five of the ten numbers. McFarland listeners will certainly recognize the arranger’s talented palette at work here (Mike Melvoin is the only other confirmed player here, though Marvin Stamm and Gordon Edwards are also most likely present). The trouble is that what’s here isn’t bad but there’s not very much music (about 29 minutes) and what is here is not as interesting as it could have been. "Slaves: Instrumental" and "Meeting House: Instrumental" seem most promising, but end up fading out too soon. Slaves, though, is worth the curiosity. Beautiful and haunting cover artwork too.


Today
Gary McFarland: Skye - issued 1970

Here, McFarland creates a rather melancholy pop album, hinged almost exclusively upon Sam Brown's acoustic guitar, Ron Carter or Chet Amsterdam's acoustic bass and Sol Gubin's quiet drums. A sort of tour of the tops in pops, circa 1969, Today alternates jazzy Soft Samba type arrangements ("My Cherie Amour," "I Will Wait For You," "Shadow of Your Smile," "Desafinado," "Shadows are Falling") with straight pop vocal numbers ("Because," "Suzanne," "Everybody's Talkin," "Michelle"). McFarland's vibes stick to mostly melody statements on the jazzier pieces (he doesn't play at all on the straight vocal numbers) and Hubert Laws (on flute) gets the bulk of what brief solo space is available. The arrangements, particularly on the Beatles tunes and especially on the excellent "Get Back," are typically elegant and unerringly simple. Production is pristine here and perfectly suited to the album's overall quietude.


Butterscotch Rum
Gary McFarland/Peter Smith: Buddah - 1971

Gary McFarland's last recording under his own name is a set of folkish pop originals, with lyrics by Smith, music by McFarland and vocals by both. McFarland was clearly headed toward new areas of creativity at this point. But while it seemed he had utterly abandoned jazz, his music still retained his individual emotional subtlety and childlike, yet erudite wit. However, if he was seeking life in Top 40, it's truly surprising he didn't find more success. There is at least one great performance here ("Salvation Army Rags") that never became the hit it deserved to be. Throughout, Smith's vocals sound very much like Bob Dorough's while McFarland, who blends well with Smith but sings lead on the album's most downbeat songs, seems a most remarkable blend of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. McFarland's music traverses changes that are quite a bit more complicated and unusual than pop is accustomed to - which may explain why the album never caught on.


Steve Kuhn
Steve Kuhn: Buddah - 1971

Gary McFarland's final recording was this interesting reunion with Steve Kuhn, the pianist who added his deft touch to 1966's sensational The October Suite. Rather than using McFarland's orchestral sketches as a launching pad for pianisitic exploration, here it is Kuhn's compositions that compel McFarland's minimalist orchestrations for string quartet. Another significant difference from the earlier album is Kuhn - heading a quartet lifted bodily by Ron Carter's fabulously engaging interjections on electric and acoustic bass - adds Fender Rhodes ("Pearlie's Swine," "The Baby") and vocals ("Silver," "Time To Go," "Hold Out Your Hand," "The Meaning Of Love") to the mix. Odd as it seems, it all sounds surprisingly natural. Kuhn's vocalizing is hauntingly similar to McFarland's nasal, lazy beatnik style. His electric keyboards suggest a plugged in Paul Bley, but he expresses enough personality to make you wonder why he didn't go electric more often. Throughout, Kuhn and McFarland alternate the melodic with the explorative (a sort of mellow freedom) in such a way that is surprisingly successful. Kuhn is all over the keyboards and McFarland's spare - nearly repetitive - arrangements are a joy to hear. There is never a doubt who is behind the strings on Steve Kuhn. Unfortunately, that makes the creative brevity and sudden loss of Gary McFarland so much harder to comprehend.


Who Killed Mary What's 'Er Name
Gary McFarland (unissued) - 1971

A wonderful -and never issued - soundtrack to a rather obscure and unfortunately forgotten film. Red Buttons stars in an unusually non-comic role as a rich but diabetic ex-boxer with enough recuperating time on his hands to solve a murder of a prostitute who no one seems to care about. He enlists the help of his daughter, Alice Payten, and ends up recruiting a strange band of lowlifes - including the friendly Conrad Bain, Sylvia Miles, Ron Carey and really hunky Sam Waterston (in a very early role) - to help. This unusual whodunit takes place entirely in the seamy streets of New York City and is, although extremely slow by today's film standards, an oddly engaging film. Gary McFarland's score is "properly atmospheric" (Variety - November 10, 1971) and (probably) features the composer at the electric piano throughout in a small jazz group featuring Marvin Stamm on flugelhorn in little sketches that would not seem out of place on McFarland's wondrous album, Scorpio And Other Signs. The film was released a little more than one week after Gary McFarland's sad and unfortunate death.

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