Joe Farrell

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Joe Farrell
Joe Farrell performing at Lush Life in New York City, 1985
Joe Farrell performing at Lush Life in New York City, 1985
Background information
Birth nameJoseph Carl Firrantello
Born(1937-12-16)December 16, 1937
OriginChicago Heights, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJanuary 10, 1986(1986-01-10) (aged 48)
Duarte, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
  • bandleader
Years active1962–1986

Joseph Carl Firrantello (December 16, 1937 – January 10, 1986),[1] known as Joe Farrell, was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist who primarily performed as a saxophonist and flutist. He is best known for a series of albums under his own name on the CTI record label and for playing in the initial incarnation of Chick Corea's Return to Forever.

Early life and education[edit]

Farrell was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois.[2][3] As a child, Farrell began playing the flute and clarinet. After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1959, he moved to New York City to work as a freelance musician.[4]


He joined the Ralph Marterie Band in 1957 and later played with Maynard Ferguson and The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra. He also recorded with Charles Mingus, Andrew Hill, Jaki Byard, Players Association and Elvin Jones. After the death of John Coltrane, Elvin Jones formed a pianoless trio with Jimmy Garrison and Farrell, recording two albums for Blue Note in 1968.

In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Farrell performed with Chick Corea and Return to Forever. He is the flutist in Corea's most famous work "Spain," which is considered to be a modern jazz standard.

He did numerous sessions and contributed a flute solo to Aretha Franklin's 1973 hit "Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)". The Santana track "When I Look into Your Eyes" (from Welcome [1973]) includes prominent flute solos from Farrell. During this period, he also contributed tenor saxophone and oboe solos to Hall & Oates' Abandoned Luncheonette (1973). Some of the most famous funk singles of James Brown feature Farrell as a part of the horn section.

In 1976, Joe recorded a duo album with George Benson called Benson & Farrell on CTI Records.

Farrell recorded Flute Talk with Sam Most in 1979, which was billed as a duet of the world's two greatest jazz flutists.

Farrell performs with Brazilian percussionist Airto and Airto's wife Flora Purim on the album Three-Way Mirror. A message on the CD jacket dedicates the 1987 album to Farrell and states it contains his final recordings.


Farrell died of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) in Duarte, California, on January 10, 1986, at the age of 48.[5]


In 2008, Farrell's daughter Kathleen Firrantello filed a lawsuit against rappers Kanye West, Method Man, Redman and Common, and their respective record labels, for allegedly using portions of Farrell's 1974 musical composition "Upon This Rock" in their songs without approval. Firrantello was seeking punitive damages of at least US$1 million and asked that no further copies of the songs be made, sold or performed.[6][7]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Mose Allison

With Patti Austin

With Average White Band

  • AWB (Atlantic, 1974)

With The Band

With Ray Barreto

  • La Cuna (CTI, 1979 [1981])

With the Bee Gees

With George Benson

With Willie Bobo

With Frank Butler

With Jaki Byard

With George Cables

  • Circle (Contemporary, 1979 [1985])

With Billy Cobham

With Chick Corea / Return to Forever

With Lou Donaldson

With Maynard Ferguson

With Aretha Franklin

With Fuse One

  • Fuse One (CTI, 1980)

With Grant Green

With Urbie Green

With Bobby Hackett

With Slide Hampton

With Andrew Hill

With Johnny Hodges

With Jackie and Roy

With Antônio Carlos Jobim

With Elvin Jones

With The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra

With Rufus Jones

With Lee Konitz

With John Larkin

  • John Larkin (Transition, 1986)

With Jeff Lorber Fusion

With Arif Mardin

With Pat Martino

With Jack McDuff

With Charles Mingus

With Mingus Dynasty

With Blue Mitchell

With James Moody

With Airto Moreira

With Laura Nyro

With Dizzy Reece

With Santana

With Lalo Schifrin

With Don Sebesky

With Dakota Staton

With Bobby Timmons

With Allen Vizzutti

  • Allen Vizzutti (Headfirst, 1981)
  • Skyrocket (Summit, 1995)


  1. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 195. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ "Biography". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2009.
  3. ^ "Joe Farrell". Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  4. ^ Jazz, All About. "Joe Farrell music @ All About Jazz". All About Jazz Musicians. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  5. ^ "Biography". NME. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2009.
  6. ^ "Rappers sued over samples". The Sydney Morning Herald. May 23, 2008. Retrieved April 15, 2009.
  7. ^ "Four rappers sued by jazzman's daughter". The Gazette. May 23, 2008. Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved April 15, 2009.