During the 1960s and '70s, Joe Farrell, already an alumnus of the Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson bands and the Elvin Jones and Chick Corea combos, was one of the busiest studio musicians in New York -- turning up on albums by Aretha Franklin and The Band, top-40 singles, film and TV sound tracks and commercials. In 1978, he moved to Los Angeles and returned to his first love, small-group jazz.

Friday and Saturday, he will bring his quartet to the One Step Down. Kei Akagi will be at the piano, Bob Harrison on bass and Tom Brechtlein at the drums. Farrell, who used to play all the reeds except bassoon, now sticks to tenor and soprano saxophones and the flute.

"More and more I'm getting to the point where I need my group with me," says Farrell, who spends some time on the road without the quartet, picking up local rhythm sections wherever he lands. "I enjoy doing that, too, but the extra special thing comes from an organized band, I think. You get used to a certain level of excellence and there are certain things you can't substitute, even if you rehearse, no matter how good the pick-up players are."