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…)