Rick Estrin & The Nightcats – Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco, 29.Mar 2009

Get in the soup and slide

This was one of the most entertaining nights I have ever experienced at Biscuits & Blues. In fact anywhere. The Nightcats took the stage with the sole aim of knocking the audience clean off their feet. And that’s exactly what they did. I defy anyone to sample this band live and walk away not feeling utterly satisfied.

It was a joy to see Rick Estrin in full flight and appreciate first hand why he has made such a name for himself not only as a harmonica ace, but also as an engaging raconteur and convincing song writer. Jerry Portnoy rightly describes him as a modern day Lieber & Stoller.

Sadly I never got to see the original line up with Little Charlie Baty on strings, although I am certainly aware of his strong reputation as a performer and studio artist. “All that meat, and them potatoes too!”Indeed his recordings with the Nightcats are quite sensational. Charlie is still around, but he’s taking five. Something they call ‘soft retirement’ in the trade. We can expect to see him again for band reunion gigs and special festivals, but in the meantime his slot is anchored by guitarist elect, Kid Andersen, whose playing is simply astonishing. (more…)

Jiving With The Greats: Jerry Portnoy – Boston, 2.April 2009

…he, whose heart was that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of The Master. William Makepeace Thackeray

Prologue

For anybody looking to master the art of Chicago and blues harmonica, look no further than Jerry Portnoy’s front porch. Study his Grammy Award winning work with the Muddy Waters Band. Update this by investing in his solo project Home Run Hitter. Then check out Down In The Mood Room – it’s predominantly, though not exclusively, jazz. Give it time if you’re a bloozer. You’ll soon understand what Jerry has to say. Then get yourself a copy of his instructional package – Blues Harmonica Masterclass. It’s not cheap, but you get every ounce of bang for your buck, plus it’s the real deal straight from one of Muddy Waters‘ monolithic harp dynasty.

Harp Surgery visitors and students will know that Jerry Portnoy‘s work is regularly mentioned on this website. It also features in our teaching sessions. Most recently we’ve been mastering his version of Misty from the 1995 Home Run Hitter album. One student in particluar, Rob Ryman, has also been working on Real Gone Guy (from the same record). These are just two of countless numbers that carry Mr Portnoy’s hallmarks of style, accuracy, tone and expression. (more…)

Misty – Jerry Portnoy [..with tab]

On my own, Would I wander through this wonderland alone, Never knowing my right foot from my left, My hat from my glove, I’m too misty, and too much in love.. 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.

For harmonica players, the album provides many rewarding lines of exploration. This is partly owing to the rhythms and styles Portnoy uses, but primarily because of his attention to detail. The title track Home Run Hitter for example, is one of the most perfect examples of first position blues harping you’ll ever hear. In Misty (the 1954 jazz standard written by pianist Erroll Garner, adopted by Johnny Mathis with lyrics by Johnny Burke), Portnoy demonstrates his ability to hit and hold awkward bends that would leave most of us severely exposed. (more…)