Joe Farrell: Outback

The Songs:

  1. Outback
  2. Sound Down
  3. Bleeding Orchid
  4. November 68th


  • Joe Farrell – soprano & tenor saxophone, piccolo, flute & alto flute
  • Chick Corea – electric piano
  • Buster Williams – bass
  • Elvin Jones – drums
  • Airto Moreira – percussion

Joe Farrell’s Outback, released in 1971, was the second of several albums that he recorded for the CTI label in the 1970s. Unusually for the label, which tended to feature funk & soul based jazz with lots of slick production, this was a straight ahead post-bop outing. (Farrell’s first CTI album, The Joe Farrell Quartet, was largely a free-jazz recording.)

On Outback, Farrell renewed some old musical partnerships. He had played on Chick Corea’s debut album, Tones For Joan’s Bones in 1966 and joined the pianist’s new group Return to Forever after Outback was released. In 1966, after leaving John Coltrane’s band, drummer Elvin Jones (and Coltrane bassist Jimmy Garrison) formed a trio with Joe Farrell. Rounding out the personnel on Outback was Buster Williams on bass and Airto Moreira on percussion (both previously with Miles Davis).

Clocking in at just under 34 minutes, Outback is a brief affair, consisting of just 4 songs. The title track was by British composer John Scott from the 1971 film of the same name (aka Wake In Fright). It features Farrell on a variety of flutes, along with Airto Moreira’s typical atmospheric and hyperactive percussion instruments, conjuring up the Brazilian rain forest as much as the Australian desert. Farrell’s Sound Down is a fairly typical post-bop tune, except that the chorus of the song changes to 3/4 time, featuring Farrell on soprano and the always inventive electric piano playing of Chick Corea. Corea’s ballad, Bleeding Orchid, with its contrapuntal bass lines and bolero drum patterns, creates a Mediterranean and at times Middle Eastern flavor. The final song, Farrell’s November 6th, is an angular uptempo Latin-Jazz number with Farrell’s muscular tenor and Elvin Jones’ drumming invoking the Coltrane quartet recordings, particularly Olé.

Joe Farrell was my first saxophone hero and this was the first Joe Farrell album I owned. I had tickets to see him while I was in college. He had to cancel the tour he was on due to ill health and ironically died the week that I would have seen him. He was an important voice on the tenor and soprano saxophones, as well as flute, both as a leader and as a sideman for Maynard Ferguson, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Jaki Byard, the Mingus Dynasty, Elvin Jones, and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. He left behind a legacy of great recordings, of which Outback is certainly among the finest. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1972. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Viewing:

The Elvin Jones Trio (w/Joe Farrell & Jimmy Garrison)