Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2010: Allan Harris

Andy Farber:
Swing Maven

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It’s fair to say that Winnipeg has developed a fondness for Andy Farber, and we’re preparing to welcome him back again this fall for the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s season opener, “Music from the Stage and Screen.”

Farber is one of the premier big band leaders and arrangers in New York, and he’s in high demand as a saxophonist as well. He’s played with all the big orchestras—think Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Artie Shaw—and has done multi-year stints with Jon Hendricks and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. For the past dozen years or so, he has been freelancing as a conductor, arranger and instrumentalist with a seemingly endless list of major players: Wynton Marsalis, Shirley Horn, Allan Harris, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Joe Lovano, Joe Piscopo, Joe Cocker, Derek Trucks, Kevin Spacey, Wynona Judd, Vanessa Williams, and many others.

Andy Farber a high-level musician, but he’s also a character. “He’s like a throwback to the 1940s,” says Anna-Lisa Kirby. “He’s the guy with the fedora and the old-fashioned lingo—but it doesn’t seem fake with him. He loves that era, he feels at home there.”

Anna-Lisa was a fellow student at the Manhattan School of Music, and when he formed his 9-piece orchestra, Andy Farber & his Swing Mavens, she was his singer of choice. Their first recording, Bluesectomy, shows off Farber’s stylish arrangements, and his knack for making the lushness of the big band feel contemporary.

When he’s not arranging for one of his bands or on stage performing or leading, Farber composes and produces music for television and film. When he returns to Winnipeg this October, expect to hear some of the great film and stage standards packaged up and delivered with real panache. With Farber at the helm, capturing that old-fashioned ideal of classic beauty is all in a day’s work.

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