Multi-reed musician from Chicago Heights, Illinois, who began playing clarinet and flute at eleven years of age. He attended Illinois University and then relocated to the Big Apple, where he found studio work as a saxophonist.
In 1960, he became a member of the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. He slid over to Slide Hampton’s band in 1962. In 1965, he multi-tasked on The Jaki Byard Quartet album, The Last from Lennie’s, playing flute, soprano sax, and tenor sax. This was followed by Chick Corea’sTones for Joan’s Bones and Pat Martino’s Strings. In 1968, he toured with the Elvin Jones trio in England and the Netherlands. He appeared on the album, Jazz for a Sunday Afternoon—Live at the Village Vanguard, in 1969.
Around this time, he formed his own quartet, and they released an album under their own name in 1970. Joe Farrell Quartet was also known as Song of the Wind and Super Session, and featured Chick Corea on piano, Jack DeJohnette on Drums, Joe on flute, oboe, soprano and tenor sax, Dave Holland on bass, and John McLaughlin on guitar. He still found time to guest-star on other people’s recordings, such as Johnny Hodges’ 3 Shades of Blue and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Stone Flower.
Joe continued to release solo albums, including Moon Germs and Outback, whilst joining Chick Corea’s group, Return to Forever. They released a self-titled album in 1972. In 1973, Joe appeared on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum, Return to Forever’s Light as a Feather, a TV special entitled Reelin’ in the Years, and the stage of the Berlin Jazz Festival, which he shared with guitarist Joe Beck, bassist Herb Bushler, and drummer Steve Gadd.
He kept record shelves stocked with his own LPs, such as Canned Funk, Penny Arcade and Upon This Rock, which featured Beck and Bushler with Jimmy Madison on drums. In 1976, he collaborated with George Benson on Benson & Farrell, Parliament on Mothership Connection, and Lalo Schifrin on the soundtrack of Black Widow.
In 1977, he released Promise Me Your Love, played flute, piccolo, soprano and tenor sax on Return to Forever Live, and inked a huge deal with Warner Bros. that led to recording dates with Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees. More solo efforts followed: Le Catedral Y El Toro, Night Dancing and Skate Board Park hit the shelves in the late 1970s.
He made the great egress to L.A. in 1980 and joined the Mingus Dynasty, which comprised Randy Brecker, Roland Hanna, Billy Hart, Jimmer Knepper, and Aladar Pege. His own albums around this time included Darn That Dream, Sonic Text, and Vim ‘n’ Vigor.
Joe died in January 1986. He left behind a wealth of recordings, however, and much of his ‘70s output began resurfacing on CD in 2011.
Bee Gees Recordings
Edge of the Universe (Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)
(LP: Main Course)
Here’s “Flute Song” from his album with George Benson…
- Stone Flower: Liner notes