|Birth name||Talmage Holt Farlow|
June 7, 1921|
Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.
|Origin||New York City|
|Died||July 25, 1998
New York City
|Labels||Norgran, Verve, Xanadu, Prestige, Blue Note, Concord|
|Associated acts||Red Norvo, Artie Shaw|
|Gibson Tal Farlow|
Talmage Holt Farlow (June 7, 1921 – July 25, 1998) was an American jazz guitarist. He was nicknamed "Octopus" because of how his large, quick hands spread over the fretboard. Where guitarists of his day combined rhythmic chords with linear melodies, Farlow placed single notes together in clusters, varying between harmonically enriched tones. As music critic Stuart Nicholson put it, "In terms of guitar prowess it was the equivalent of Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile."
Talmage Holt Farlow was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1921. He taught himself how to play guitar. He learned chord melodies by playing a mandolin tuned like a ukulele and listened to Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, and Eddie Lang. He said his playing the ukulele was the reason he used the higher four strings on the guitar for the melody and chord structure, with the two bottom strings for bass counterpoint, which he played with his thumb. His only professional training was as an apprentice sign painter. He requested the night shift so he could listen to big band standards on the shop radio. His career was influenced by hearing Charlie Christian playing electric guitar with the Benny Goodman band. He said he made his own electric guitar because he couldn't afford one.
Farlow made an impression on the jazz world when he played in a trio with Red Norvo and Charles Mingus from 1949 to 1953. He used virtuoso technique and guitar mechanics, such as harmonics and using the picking hand to play notes on the fret board. His large, quick hands earned him the nickname "The Octopus".
When Farlow was married in 1958, he retired from full-time performing and settled in Sea Bright, New Jersey, returning to a career as a sign painter. He continued to play occasional dates in local clubs. In 1962 the Gibson Guitar Corporation, with Farlow's participation, produced the "Tal Farlow" model.
Farlow made one album as a leader during 1960–1975, but emerged more often during 1976–1984, recording for Concord before disappearing again. He was profiled in the documentary Talmage Farlow (1981).
- The Tal Farlow Quartet (1954; Blue Note)
- The Tal Farlow Album (1954; Norgran)
- Autumn in New York (1954; Verve)
- The Artistry of Tal Farlow (1955; Norgran)
- The Interpretations of Tal Farlow (1955; Norgran)
- A Recital by Tal Farlow (1955; Norgran)
- Swing Guitars (1955; Norgran)
- Poppin' and Burnin' (1955; Verve)
- Guitar Player (1974; Prestige)
- Tal (1956; Norgran)
- First Set (1956; Xanadu)
- Second Set (1956; Xanadu)
- The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow (1957; Verve)
- This is Tal Farlow (1958; Verve)
- The Guitar Artistry of Tal Farlow (1960; Verve)
- Tal Farlow Plays the Music of Harold Arlen (1960; Verve)
- The Return of Tal Farlow (1969; Prestige)
- Trinity (1976; CBS Sony)
- A Sign of the Times (1977; Concord)
- Tal Farlow '78 (1978; Concord)
- On Stage (1981; Concord)
- Chromatic Palette (1981; Concord)
- Cookin' on all Burners (1983; Concord)
- The Legendary Tal Farlow (1985; Concord)
- All Strings Attached (1987; JazzVisions)
- Standards Recital (1993; FD Music)
- Project G-5: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery (1993; Evidence)
- Jazz Masters 41 Tal Farlow (1995; Verve)
- Tal Farlow (1996; Giants of Jazz)
- Chance Meeting (1997; Guitarchives) with Lenny Breau, from the soundtrack Talmadge Farlow
- Live at the Public Theatre (2000; Productions a-Propos) with Tommy Flanagan & Red Mitchell from the soundtrack Talmadge Farlow
- Tal Farlow's Finest Hour (2001; Verve)
- Tal's Blues (2002; Past Perfect)
- Two Guys with Guitars (2004; Frozen Sky)
- The Complete Verve Tal Farlow Sessions (2004; Mosaic)
With Sonny Criss
- Up, Up and Away (Prestige, 1967)
With the Metronome All-Stars
With Oscar Pettiford
- Stuart Nicholson, "Axe of the Apostles," Wire, September 1990, p. 72
- Robinson, J. Bradford; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). Kernfeld, Barry, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 1 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 740. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
- Watrous, Peter (28 July 1998). "Tal Farlow, 77, Jazz Guitarist Rooted in Bop". The New York Times.