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. (more…)

Kim Wilson, Little Lou’s BBQ, San Jose CA, 26.Jan 2014 – Part I

FlyerIt’s so sad to be lonesome

If they’re honest, anyone faced with the task of reviewing a Kim Wilson performance will tell you it’s as unnerving as the thought of jamming on stage with the titan himself. What can be written that’s not already chronicled? How do you avoid a fawning litany of superlatives? The answer is.. just tell it like it is. So we will. Hang on to your hats.

Listen to

On the first point you can relax. For this commentator at least, the prospect of joining Kim Wilson on stage remains a pipe dream. On the second however, we should begin with some reflections on last year’s Fabulous Thunderbirds performance in London. (more…)

Our First-Ever Blues Harp Albums (Part 2)

As we review the albums that first got us hooked on blues harp, The Good Doctor tries to pick out his all-time favourite harmonica album from his days as a beginner.

The Good Doctor’s choice:
When she was a pre-schooler, I used to joke that my eldest daughter was the epitome of indecision. Presented with two options, she would innocently substitute ‘either or’ with ‘and’. Bargaining was fruitless. Consequently I developed my own circus act, flipping pancakes and toasting waffles simultaneously.

I have since learned that, given the opportunity of two best options, ‘either or’ is quite simply an unfair question. So I am taking a leaf from my daughter’s book and, free of compunction, I have to name two favourite albums. In the frying pan we have Girls Go Wild by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, while under the grill we have Live at The Marquee by 9 Below Zero. No amount of balloon debating will change my mind.

As a teenager, both these albums had me air-harping in front of the bedroom mirror. Nothing else mattered. Kim Wilson and Mark Feltham were my surrogate blues harp mentors. Real-life harp tutors did not exist in 1980 suburban England. There was Tony ‘Little Sun’ Glover’s now famous reference manual, but we had no Youtube or DVD. We had to engage our ears and our imagination, take a deep breath and figure it all out by ourselves. Which is another reason why these two albums rarely left the turntable. While they were a joy to listen to, I was also trying to copy and learn from them. (more…)