Misty – Jerry Portnoy [..with tab]

On my own, would I wander through this wonderland alone.. Misty (Johnny Burke)

In 1995, Jerry Portnoy recorded his landmark harmonica album Home Run Hitter with The Streamliners. The record’s producer was Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, while Duke Robillard contributed guitar and vocals to the project. The result is a collection of songs that bounce, groove and swing like a beast.

Listen to

For harmonica players, the album provides many rewarding avenues for exploration. This is partly owing to the diverse rhythms and styles Jerry uses, but more importantly because of his unerring attention to detail. The title track Home Run Hitter for example, is one of the finest examples of first position blues harping you’ll ever hear. If this position is new to you, or you just need to brush it up a bit, grab an E harp and play along.

In Misty (the 1954 jazz standard written by pianist Erroll Garner, adopted by Johnny Mathis with lyrics by Johnny Burke), Jerry demonstrates his ability to hit and hold those awkward cross-harp bends that would leave most of us audibly exposed. Add in the exciting transition from ballad to swing time at the midway point, and we have two and half minutes’ worth of sublime jazz.

For many years a tab of Portnoy’s rendition has been available on line. You can view it here. I have tried to play from it, but found myself stumped. To be blunt, the tab includes some inaccuracies and it’s incomplete. So let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can find.

Listen to

I suspect a lot of care was taken by Jerry in choosing the optimum harp register for the track; he uses an Ab harp in second position cross-harp. Unless you have an Ab harp, you won’t sound quite as moody as Mr. Portnoy, and the melody won’t be as comfortable to play. Indeed, many textures will be lost. I have found that an A or Bb harp facilitates neither the depth of bend and tone at the bottom, nor the same hit and control at the top as an Ab. However, a G harp is a reliable alternative in both these respects.

I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree…
And here is the tab you’ve been looking for, transcribed courtesy of the Good Doctor from Jerry Portnoy’s version of Misty. You can follow the Draw/Blow tab on this page, or else click the orange icon for our Arrow Tab (.pdf format for printing). Full acknowledgement and credit go to Jerry Portnoy. Respect also goes to those who have tabbed before and are yet to do so. Enjoy it, rip it up and tell all your friends. And just before you start, please buy yourself a copy of Jerry Portnoy’s monster album, Home Run Hitter. It comes with a five star rating from the Harp Surgery and we guarantee you’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot.


~4  3  2′..

1D  2B  2D” 5B  5B  6B  5B  4D  3D  2D  2B

1B  1D  2B  2D  3D  4D  4D  4D  4B  4D

4B  3D  4B  4D  2D  3D” 3D  4B  2B  2B  2D’ 2D  3D” 3D…

3D” 2D  2B  1B  1D…

gliss to  4D…  3D  2D’

1D  2B  2D” 5B  5B  6B  5B  4D  3D  2D  2B

1B  1D  2B  2D  3D  4D  4D  4D  4B  4D

4B  3D 4B  4D  2D  3D” 3D  4B  2B  2B  2D’  2D  3D” 2D…  pause



2D  3D’..3D..4D  5B  5D  5D..5D..5D…

5D..6B..6D’  6B  5D  5B..6B..5B

6B  6D  7D  7B  8B’  8B  9B’..9B’..9B’..8B..9B’~

8B..9B’..8B..10D  9B’  8B  8D..8D..8D..8D..8D..8D..8B  8B


1D..1D’..1D..4D  3D  2D’..  1D..2B..1D

1D  2B  2D” 5B  5B..6B..5B  4D  3D  2D  2B  2B..2B..2B

1B..1D..2B..2D..3D  4D  4D  4B  4D..  4B  3D  4B  4D  2D

3D” 3D  4B  2B   ..rall..  2B  2D’  2B  1D  4D…

4D  5B  5D  4D~5D

4B  3D  4B  2B…  2B..2D’…  2B  3D”…

4D  3D  2D’..2D  2D’..2D  2D’..2D  2D’..2D  2D’

And there’s more…
Now you’ve mastered this great piece, you can enjoy our lovely chat with Jerry Portnoy right here.

3 thoughts on “Misty – Jerry Portnoy [..with tab]

  • July 26, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Sorry, I dont understand what harmonica need to play this tab. Diatonic A maybe?

  • August 27, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Maximo. Jerry uses an Ab, but you could use G no problem. A won’t quite give you the depth of feel you’ll need tonally and in the bends.

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