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For Joe Farnsworth, the Time to Swing is Always Now

Joe Farnsworth
courtesy of the artist

The joyous sound of Joe Farnsworth's drums center around a sparkling and hard-driving cymbal beat honed from years of study and direct contact with drum legends such as Max Roach, Jimmy Lovelace, Roy Haynes and Art Taylor.

From Art Taylor, Farnsworth learned an invaluable lesson about the lineage of drum accompaniment; the rhythmic language of saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianist Bud Powell was the foundation. Learning that foundation and putting it into practice on the bandstand helped Farnsworth stand out quickly. Over the last 35 years, he's been heard with artists as diverse as Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, George Coleman, Harold Mabern, Wynton Marsalis, Mike LeDonne, Peter Bernstein and Pharoah Sanders.

WBGO's "Let Me Tell You 'Bout It" with Joe Farnsworth

During the pandemic, Farnsworth stepped forward online. The nattily dressed drummer has assembled video tributes to many of the aforementioned drumming legends, and helped to lighten the mood with his mantra: Time to Swing. As a sideman or leader, he's been featured in action as part of the livestreams of the Village Vanguard, Smoke and Smalls Jazz Club.

Farnsworth also released an album, Time to Swing, that perfectly captures his buoyancy and forward motion. Through a variety of tempos and moods, he maintains a deep and articulate sound that shows why he's the perfect choice for musicians that want to swing hard on the stage or in the studio.

In this conversation, Farnsworth imparts wisdom and knowledge that he's learned from master musicians, and shares his thoughts on the continued shaping of his musical identity and interaction with the next generation of leading improvisers.