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Tal Farlow

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Talmage Holt Farlow (June 7, 1921 – July 25, 1998) was an American jazz guitarist. He is considered one of the all-time great jazz guitarists.

Farlow was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1921, with his first introduction to a stringed instrument being the mandolin (tuned like a uke), as a young child. Nearly as famous for his reluctance to perform publicly as for his outstanding abilities, he did not take up the instrument until he was 21, but within a year was playing professionally and in 1948 was with Marjorie Hyams’ band. While with the Red Norvo Trio from 1949–1953, Farlow became famous in the jazz world. His huge hands and ability to play rapid yet light lines, which earned him the nickname “Octopus”, made him one of the top guitarists of the era. Where other similar players of his day combined rhythmic chords with linear melodies, Farlow preferred placing single notes together in clusters, varying between harmonically enriched tones based on a startling new technique.
After six months with Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five in 1953, Farlow put together his own group, which for a time included pianist Eddie Costa. In 1958, Farlow 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, however. In 1962 the Gibson Guitar Corporation, with Farlow’s participation, produced the “Tal Farlow” model in their prestigious Artist Model line. The production model has a mandolin-style scroll at the top of the body.

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