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Talmage Holt Farlow's half-century career in jazz embodied the unusual. Born June 7, 1921 in Greensboro, North Carolina, he was supposed to grow up and become a textile plant worker like his father. Instead, he spent countless hours tuned-in to remote radio broadcasts of Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Coleman Hawkins.
By the late 1940's, the polite, lanky boy with the massive hands had moved to New York after playing in dance and society bands down South. Tal's highly innovative style and unique sense of harmony soon established him as a vital link in the chain begun by Charlie Christian. His work in the bands of Buddy DeFranco, Artie Shaw, and in the landmark Red Norvo Trio with Charles Mingus eventually landed him on a successful and much-heralded career as a leader.
At the top of his form in 1958, Tal Farlow walked out of the limelight as suddenly as he'd walked into it less than ten years before. People wondered where he'd vanished to. Had he cracked up? Was he sick of the jazz scene? Farlow put it more succinctly. "It didn't suit my temperament, I guess."
Settling in the coastal town of Sea Bright, New Jersey, the guitarist returned to his old trade as a sign painter. His "disappearance" turned him into a living legend for generations of players and fans. You could still hear him from time to time into the early eighties in clubs and restaurants along the Jersey Shore. His most loyal listeners found him but press attention was scarce.
In addition to showcasing Tal's music, this film explores his reasons for choosing a different kind of life for himself. Since his death, his place among the great innovators of modern jazz seems well assured. Constantly searching, refining, experimenting, Tal Farlow was more than just a great musician. His patient struggle to find a balance between artistic excellence and peace of mind is the real story behind Talmage Farlow.