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Red Garland: Feelin' Red

AAJ Staff By

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This is a welcome reissue; the swan song of a very proud swan. Red Garland’s long series of trio recordings began in 1956, when he was still in the Miles Davis Quintet. He stayed with Prestige until 1962, appearing on more than 30 albums (including much of John Coltranes’s work for the label.) When this deal ended, there were albums for Riverside/Jazzland – then his sick mother needed him in Dallas. Garland went home, and stayed there for his twilight years. There were club dates in Dallas, a few records – and the very occasional gig out of town. In 1978 there was an engagement at the Village Vanguard. His trio on this date – Sam Jones and Al Foster — went to a studio to record this session for Muse, his first of two albums for the label. The lost time hurt Garland very little; he comes out swinging with his usual bag of dreamy ballads and overlooked standards. It’s the type of album he made many times before, but for certain fans and certain moods, you can never ha! ve enough Red Garland.

The first track, “It’s All Right With Me”, starts with a surprise. This is where Red normally puts the lush slow intro, but not here. The grand chords come swiftly, and the track maintains pace throughout. We’re nearly through the theme before the first block chord; then comes a solo, in those darting single-note lines he was so fond of. Then comes a neat idea: playing the theme in block chords, Red trades fours with – himself, playing single-note! (There’s also a conventional fours section, traded with foster.) It’s an auspicious opening, the old Garland sound packaged in a new way. It’s a concept that works.

Old and new meet again on the next track “You Better Go Now”. This appeared on the Prestige album ROJO as a fast mover, heavy on the block chords. Here the chording is light, and the tempo a delicious slow ballad. The earlier version stuck largely to the theme; this time he plays with it a little, musing over the notes as a man returning to an old friend. Foster brushes along as Arthur Taylor used to in the old trio; Jones, playing what sounds like an electric upright bass, plays melody more than time, and thus brings a new edge to an old sound. Garland next takes the plaintive “On a Clear Day” and makes it go fast; Foster, in his round of fours, goes to the tom-toms, using a weapon largely ignored by Red’s previous drummers.

The first two minutes of “Goin’ Home” are taken solo and very slow. When the backing comes in the jazz is turned on; the theme is mostly played straight but they go all over the bridge, having fun with its harmonies. Garland sounds very relaxed here. “Cherokee” has a “Tomahawk Chop” opening, then leaps into the expected fast jam. Garland plays block chords on the theme, normal chords on the bridge. A brief bit from Red and then Foster gets a very long solo, his only such effort. He then gets to trade a chorus with Red; it’s more Foster’s track then Garland. It’s a neat (and loud!) end to a fine album.

The album provides nice contrast to his earlier work, and will appeal to fans of that material. You’re basically getting the same package, but you’re not getting it the same way. It’s neat to hear a ‘Seventies bass with a ‘Fifties piano, and it’s another chance to hear Red Garland. As for me, I will take any chance I GET!


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