Bright and Breezy: RED GARLAND TRIO
Red Garland (p) Sam Jones (b) Charlie Persip (drs) New York City; July 19, 1961
On Green Dolphin Street (5:05) (Bronislaw Kaper)
I Ain’t Got Nobody (5:02) (Graham-Williams-Peyton)
You’ll Never Know (5:26) (Gordon-Warren)
Blues in the Closet (4:19) (Oscar Pettiford)
What’s New (4:18) (Burke-Haggart)
Lil’ Darlin’ (7:19) (Neil Hefti)
What Is There to Say? (5:06) (Harburg-Duke)
So Sorry Please (4:08) (Bud Powell)
There are some musicians whose efforts and activities move writers to crate paragraph after paragraph of analysis, explanation, and commentary. Which is sometimes a good idea, but which can also divert your attention from the real point – for, no matter what else anyone tries to tell you, the real point of good jazz is still to be found in the listening.
There are also those jazz artists who for one reason or another do not tend to attract the interest of the word manipulators. Such musicians, although their supporters may be quite numerous, have to be satisfied for the most part with spoken comments on the order of “Man, he swings” or “That cat sure can play.” When sincerely intended, such remarks should out-rank the highest multi-syllable praise ever printed. But in our word-conscious age, that is rarely the case. The musician whose comparative directness or simplicity of style, or whose failure to have the sort of irrelevant personal quirks that make good copy, keeps him from being written about at length inevitably feels that he is being short-changed. And with justice, for those magazine and trade-paper articles and interviews are an important way of keeping yourself in the public eye.
It is not precisely accurate to include RED GARLAND among those who do not get written about. For one of the foremost, and most widely read jazz writers of the day, Ralph Gleason of San Francisco, has long been a sturdy Garland champion, and can be found saying such pungent things as: “He has brought back some long absent elements to jazz piano … and proved over again the sublime virtue of swing and a solid, deep groove.” But Ralph is pretty much an exception, and on the whole all you are likely to be ale to read about Red is (favorably) that he plays a locked-hands, richly chord style and was good enough to be employed for three years and more by the highly critical Miles Davis, or (unfavorably) that his particular stylistic mannerisms and lyricism somehow make him more of a “cocktail lounge” performer than a jazz pianist.
Such a state of affairs is intolerable to some, but it does not seem to disturb the easy-going Mr. Garland. His reaction is merely to continue to tend to his business, which happens to be that of playing piano in a way that a great many jazz fans who are listeners more than readers have always found most rewarding.
This album marks Red’s first appearance on Jazzland, and since he had also never recorded for the companion Riverside label, it was this writer’s first opportunity to work with Garland in the studio. As it turned out, “work” is hardly the word for it. As the buoyant and bright sound of Red’s piano might lead you to suspect, this is a man who enjoys himself at the keyboard, and whose unstrained approach to the task at hand produces results with a real minimum of tension and of time. Very little more than four hours were spent in recoding these eight tracks, and this was not because anyone was in a hurry. It’s just that when it is obvious that a number has been played right, you move on to the next. And the big, hearty Mr. Garland gets things as right as you could ask for with next to now waste effort.
There have been several albums by Red on the market before this one, of course, but a couple of extra added factors make this (in my prejudiced opinion) definitely top level Garland. One was his frankly expressed joy in a brand new recording association, one which both Red and Jazzland were determined to get off to a wailing start. Another was that Red had what is, for him, a rare opportunity to make use of the services of SAM JONES, one of the most highly regarded of today’s bassists, a prized member of the Jazzland-riverside team, and a mainstay of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. The vast value of Sam’s support, as a great many of today’s musicians will vehemently inform you at the slightest excuse, is not to be underestimated. Also very much on hand is CHARLIE PERSIP, a formidable drummer who is highly familiar with Red through previous playing and recoding experience.
The Texas-born (in Dallas, in May of 1923) pianist opens the album with a compellingly swinging glance at his most celebrated steady gig by offering his own version of the Lana Turner-movie theme that is a favorite Miles Davis vehicle: On Green Dolphin Street. Then comes a robust and personalized treatment of I Ain’t Got Nobody, a tune that has proved its sturdiness by being around since 1916, and which holds up nobly under the affectionate pounding-around it gets from ex-boxer Garland. From there he moves to the first of the three ballad-tempo standards – You’ll Never Know, What’s New?, and What It There to Say? – included here. That may seem a heavy percentage of balladry for an eight-track LP, moving, quite varied, and tender without ever being syrupy ways with such material.
Blues in the Closet, by the late Oscar Pettiford, is the first of the three written-by-jazzmen numbers that make up the balance of the repertoire. The second is Neil Hefti’s Lil’ Darling, the easily loping lines of which fit into the Garland idiom so effortlessly that everyone was greatly surprised to find that this ‘take’ had run over seven minutes – by far the longest excursion in the album. Finally, there is a tribute to Bud Powell (who, along with the richly intricate Art Tatum and the lyrical Nat Cole, exerted the greatest early influence on Red’s style). Bud’s So Sorry Please is a rarely-tackled selection; after hearing Garland romp so effectively through its swift and tricky line, it’s my guess that a whole new generation of pianist has been scared off.
When you get right down to it, the reason why not very much is written about Red may be the one given in a song title herein. What is there to say? What except the very pertinent points noted in my second paragraph: decidedly, he swings and he can play. And as long as everybody understand the importance of those qualities, everything’s going to be all right.
This recording is also available in Stereophonic form on JLP 948S
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by STEVE SCHAPIRO
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILLGRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York