Tal Farlow (1921-1998)
(Talmage Holt Farlow) is one of the pioneers of bebop style of jazz
guitar playing. His interest for guitar ignited when he heard the great
Christian on the radio in the early 1940's.
It is said that Farlow's career as a professional jazz musician was
launched only a year
after he picked up the guitar
for the first time... and he was under 25 years old! Thanks to his
ability to learn many, many Charlie Christian solos from Benny Goodman
Farlow can be perceived as one
of the earliest bebop jazz
guitarist because his career was active as soon
the early forties! He was born only five years later than the great
left a legacy of amazing jazz guitar music for future generations.
Tal came up on the
international scene by working in the Red Norvo trio from
1949 to 1953 and then went on to lead his own band. Although extremely
talented and influential, he was always reluctant to play live. Some
believe that is why he "retired" from music and returned to his sign
painter career in 1958.
There was a
resurgence in his public appearances and recordings in the 1976-1984
period... but he virtually "disappeared" of the scene again (only to
play a few times here
and there in his later years.)
Picture by Vernon Hyde
Gear and Playing Style
Tal was influenced by Charlie Christian (and, honestly, who wasn't
during that period?!) His lines show an understanding of harmony and
passion for the bebop type of phrasing.
His "edge" came from his unique
approach and enormous hands (which both allowed for
smooth lines and very unorthodox techniques.) Also heard on his
recordings: some very unusual voicings and chord melody
abilities for the time.
My personal favorite Tal Farlow sound is the use of artificial harmonics
to play entire melodies. Years before Lenny Breau used plenty
of special techniques with harmonics, Farlow pioneered that kind of
sound in jazz guitar.
Lenny Breau also stated in an interview that Tal Farlow was one of his
main influence on guitar. Note : They recorded a live album/documentary