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For more than 20 years Art Former left his trumpet in the case and perfected his command of the larger, mellower flugelhorn; in recent years he brought the trumpet back to his music; and now he uses a specially designed hybrid called, with a disarming lack of dignity, the flumpet. No matter. In every case, Farmer produces a caramel-coated tone that such terms as “burnished,” “honeyed,” and “velvety” must have been meant to describe. That tone–along with the pure deep lyricism of his improvising explains why, when people think of Farmer, they think of ballads; and indeed, few jazzmen have ever caressed and probed the tender spots with such naked grace and emotional wisdom. In recent years, though, Farmer has returned with gusto to the nervy tempos of his formative bebop years–a style transformed by his lack of bombast into something paradoxically coy and even a bit mysterious. Farmer brings with him a spectacular trio of young accompanists, starring the percussion marvel Marvin “Smitty” Smith and pianist Geoff Keezer. Still in his early 20s, Keezer may well be the outstanding pianist in a generation full of them; his assets include a playful technique, imaginative voicings, and a maturity–a sense of purpose–that makes each improvisation sound truly, if spontaneously, composed. Tuesday through next Sunday, April 4, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nancy Ellison.