JAZZIZ Magazine

In the early 70s, burgeoning jazz vocalist Fred Farell began studying with pianist Richie Beirach in New York City, developing his ear and his chops as an improviser. Beirach encouraged his student to write lyrics to jazz compositions and before long Farell was diving into works written by Beirach and his colleague Dave Liebman. Farell penned heartfelt, evocative words that added context to the Beirach’s and Liebman’s dramatic music, but after a religious awakening decide to leave the jazz world in 1980. More than 30 years later, Farell revisited the lyrics he had written and found they still spoke to him. Thus inspired, he contacted Beirach and Liebman and proposed that they finish what he had started. The subsequent trio album Distant Song (Whaling City Sound) was well worth the wait. Farell’s yearning vocals float and drift over the stark and moody terrain of Beirach’s piano and Liebman’s saxophone and flute, the lyrics wistfully introspective. On “Leaving”, included here, Farell’s voice rises and falls like a wind-blown leaf, the music and the lyric sketching a bleak landscape. Beirach, who composed the piece sets the stage with a gorgeous, heartbroken solo passage that’s later echoed in Liebman’s soprano sax and wooden flute. Farell’s voice is filled with regret as he sings about a painful parting. However, by song’s end he’s on his way back to the place where his heart lies, an apt metaphor for his return to this music. 

Rebecca Brooker