90

Jerry Portnoy: Down In The Mood Room

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Jerry Portnoy: Down In The Mood Room The New Harmonica King...forget John Popper, that soulless technician.

I am a child of the '70s. In some respects that is terribly unfortunate. I listened to a light year of bad music in that decade before discovering Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Santana, ZZ Top, The J. Geils Band, and Ten Years After. Listening to Beaker Street on KAAY— The Voice of the South, I first heard the J. Geils Band and Magic Dick playing on Full House Live. I thought, "Holy Shit! Where are all of those notes coming from? That is soooooo Bad!"

Speeding ahead ten years when I discover Marion Walter Jacobs and in his self-destructive genius, I heard the apex of an art form. "Juke" and "Off The Wall" were masterpieces of the blues produced by a man who was hit in the head with a brick and killed in the late 1960s at the age of 38 years old.

Since, I have heard very few harmonicats that could possibly have a pissing contest beyond a dribble with Little Walter Jacobs. Then, while listening to National Public Radio the other day, I heard Jerry Portnoy blowing that fat, warm, penetrating harp sound on a contemporary disc touted to be a jazz crossover on the harmonica (no mere Toots Theilmans imitation, something else altogether different).

The song I heard was "Sentimental Journey." The sound was what you would think you would have heard on Maxwell Street in Chicago, circa 1943. The disc has proven to be a delight. Jerry Portnoy inhabited the harmonica chair in Muddy Waters' band, replacing Mojo Buford in 1976. Portnoy went on from there to form The Legendary Blues Band with Pinetop Perkins. In the mid-'80s Portnoy left the Legendary Blues Band and retired for a short time only to come back and help found Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters. In the early '90s, Portnoy toured with Eric Clapton and pursued his own solo desires. Down In the Mood Room is the most recent product of those desires.

Fusing electric Chicago Blues and New York Jazz, Portnoy produces a seething inferno of rocking momentum. Portnoy tries his hand successfully at several subgenera. Horace Silver's "Doodlin,'" the swing-era "Sentimental Journey," and "So Slow" are played with that full vintage tube amplifier-bullet mike sound that overwhelms the listener with a flood of sound. Duke Robillard sings the Louis Armstrong classic "You Rascal, You" (the only song sporting a chromatic harmonica, and there only in the introduction) and Portnoy's own "Money" with great effect. Portnoy himself contributes vocals on "Lazy" and "Endless Road." Out of this world.

There is a difference between sheer technical ability and virtuosity. Technical Ability is like the trendy mixed drink of the moment, flashy and intriguing, but in the end shallow and boring (John Popper, for instance). Virtuosity is like a very fine and complex Port, always revealing the new and the old in a taste. Jerry Portnoy is every bit the virtuoso and should be honored as such. I suggest that you, gentle reader, purchase Down In the Mood Room, que up track two and turn the volume to eleven on a scale of ten.


Track Listing: Doodlin'; So Slow; You Rascal You; Canadian Sunset; Lullaby Of Birdland; Lazy; Jug Band Waltz; Once Too Often; Sentimental Journey; Money; Stormy Weather; Mood Room Boogie; Endless Road. (Total Time: 50:00).

Personnel: Jerry Portnoy: Harmonica, Vocals; Duke Robillard: Guitar; Marty Ballou: Bass; Steve Ramesey Drums; Doug James: Baritone Saxophone, Baritone Clarinet; Gordon Beadle: Tenor Saxophone; Troy Gonyea: Guitar; Bob Malone: Vocals; Mark Davis: Violin, Mandolin, Mandocello.

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Tiny Town | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Big Wheel Live" CD/LP/Track Review Big Wheel Live
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Colosseum Live" CD/LP/Track Review Colosseum Live
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 10, 2016
Read "Isn't Life Grand" CD/LP/Track Review Isn't Life Grand
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 29, 2016
Read "Mundo" CD/LP/Track Review Mundo
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 30, 2016
Read "re: dawn (from far)" CD/LP/Track Review re: dawn (from far)
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 8, 2016
Read "Intuit" CD/LP/Track Review Intuit
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!