The Nearness of You: BALLADS PLAYED BY RED GARLAND
Red Garland (p) Larry Ridley (b) Frank Gant (drs) (Lush Life is an unaccompanied piano solo)
New York; November 30, 1961
Why Was I Born? (4:51) (Kern-Hammerstein)
The Nearness of You (5:34) (Carmichael-Washington)
Where or When (6:09) (Rodgers and Hart)
Long Ago and Far Away (3:49) (Kern-I. Gershwin)
I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good (5:17) (Ellington-Webster)
Don’t Worry About Me (4:40) (Bloom-Koehler)
Lush Life (4:15) (Billy Strayhorn)
All Alone (4:58) (Irving Berlin)
This album can properly e described as a mood set. Yet, because Red Garland is the man who is playing, it is considerably more than this. Garland is a musician of experience – experience both in music and in life. What he brings t the piano is the totality of this experience. It is obvious that he is not skimming the surface.
A pianist approaching an album of this kind, where the tempo is way down throughout, is faced with several pitfalls: he can be too sweet, too flowery, or too bland. Red, through a highly individual combination of simplicity and emotion, manages to avoid all three dangers. Ralph J. Gleason has said of him: “Garland is deceptive, in that his relative simplicity in an age of complexity has allowed some people to make the assumption that he is unimportant though pleasant. Make no mistake. Garland is one of the half-dozen important piano players in jazz today.”
In the particular critique from which I quote, Gleason went on to support his contention by referring to Red’s influence on many of the younger players and citing “his heavy melodic commitment, his rhapsodic voicing, and the lovely waves-washing-the-shoreline manner of his medium-tempo and slow-tempo swinging.”
Swing he does, even at the most subdued tempo. Like Milt Jackson, to name another who moves at any tempo, Garland knows where to place his notes, how to make those little delays and swift advancements that go toward establishing a real jazz feel. Furthermore, through his sensitive touch, he is able to communicate feeling in large portions.
Anther very important Garland attribute is a quite extensive repertoire and an ability to reach into its nooks and crannies for songs that are not done by everyone else. During the time he spent with Miles Davis, he was celebrated for introducing fresh standards into that quintet’s book. Here, in this trio setting, Red is largely concerned with songs with which we have been familiar, at one time or another, through the years. Most of them, however, we have lately heard either not at all or only infrequently. But even if we had been hearing them often, it wouldn’t matter too much. For his treatment is so personal that, without actually changing a song, he can alter its character and leave it stamped with his mark. (For instance, I’ve never heard Irving Berlin’s All Alone done this way, and I’m sure you haven’t either, although it has surely been played times beyond counting since 1924. It is not a total rephrasing in the Bill Evans sense; it seems in this case to be mainly that Red does not hit you over the head with a melody, but rather sidles in.)
A high point is Billy Strayhorn’s endurable Lush Life (if I ever had to make a list of the most beautiful songs ever written, I’d start with this one and ‘Round Midnight), where Garland delivers an unaccompanied solo as only a pianist of considerable accomplishment can hope to do.
The other seven selections, all standards, dip wisely into the works, of such eminently suitable for ballad-tempo interpretation writers as Rodgers, Kern, Ellington and the previously mentioned Berlin. On these, Red has the sympathetic, empathetic support of Larry Ridley and Frank Gant. Bassist Ridley, from Indianapolis, has worked with George Russell and Philly Joe Jones. He takes plucked solos on I Got It Bad and Don’t Worry About Me. Gant, a Detroiter, has played with Donald Byrd and Yusef Lateef among others, and has been associated with Garland for close to two years. His brush-work has all the necessary taste required here.
Take this album you will: relax with it; daydream or night-dream (the wide-awake variety); cajole or console a member of the opposite sex. You can also listen and be amply rewarded.
Omar Khayyan said: “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thee …”
I say: “A lot of bread, a bottle of J&B, and ‘The Nearness of You’”.
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 962) and Monaural (JLP 62) form
Red Garland can be heard on Jazzland on –
Bright and Breezy (JLP 48; Stereo 948)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Mastering by NEAL CEPPOS
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
(Producers of Riverside Records)
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York