Red Garland: The Nearness of You

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
From time to time Red Garland would do something new in his long series of albums, injecting some variety into his classic formula. Sometimes it was an added musician, or there’d be a “theme” album like WHEN THERE ARE GREY SKIES, full of old tunes like “St. James Infirmary”. This is one of the latter – an all-ballad set. Considering how lyrical Red was, this was a natural, although he only did it a couple of times (the others were for the Moodsville label.) With a new trio (Larry Ridley and Frank Gant, later to appear on Red’s album Solar), Red goes through the old standards with his typical charm, including a solo performance of “Lush Life”. This is another natural – like Red himself.

The theme to “Why Was I Born?” is played entirely with block chords, something he rarely did. As the echo blankets him, he’ll sometimes lift the sustain pedal, and that brings the backing into sharp focus. Ridley’s part is quite prominent; his notes boom and he walks forcefully. Red’s solo starts bluesy, with pensive notes; here too the chords creep back, and before we know it we’re back on the theme, with a nice downward stagger of notes as it comes to a close.

The brushes rain quietly and the notes comes slowly on “The Nearness of You.” Red always had a way of sounding lonely in his single-note playing; this contrasts well with the block chords, which we hear at the end of the theme. Ridley gets the first solo, and it’s pretty busy, suggesting power as Red’s comping comes soft. Red’s own solo is also aggressive, and returns to chords just before the theme. As it closes, Red hits a succession of high notes that sound like chimes, and the “familiar “big finish” comes in an unfamiliar way.

Time is suspended as “Where or When” begins. It’s very slow, with the left hand doing most of the work. The high notes are scattered, and it takes a while to recognize the melody. The pace picks up a little, and Red gets more forceful. When at last we hear the full theme, we get it in chords, an unexpected struttin’ finish, and some busy tinkling in Red’s solo. The cymbals rumble sharply; Gant using them more than most Garland drummers; with the brushes the rumbling sound is doubled. A minuet-like figure runs down the keys as Red and Frank bring it home together.

“Long Ago and Far Away” begins much as the last did, the wistful notes coming singly and slowly forming a song. The closing theme is clever: while left hand chords heavy and hard, right hand pecks out the notes as it did before, giving you loud and soft at once. Red next gives a wink at his successor with Miles Davis: he quotes “Peace Piece” while opening “I Got it Bad”. The pace is up, with lush highlights on the last section of theme. Gant’s brushes are quite loud, the sound swelling and receding much like Garland drummer Arthur Taylor. Red’s solo gets downright giddy, with a rapid fire of fluttering notes. It’s a nice build-up to a nice finish, with some bowing by Ridley.

“Lush Life” opens with the theme – but wait a minute. After four measures Red goes to the verse, and plays it with feeling, heavy chords, and high notes. The verse ends on an atmospheric note, around a pulsing low rumble. The tune itself is properly lush, but block chords are at a minimum. We hear tremolos, Peterson-like runs, and quiet moments right at the end. It’s a great performance, and a rigorous change of pace.

Following this solo piece, we get “All Alone”, played by the trio. The opening is marvelously lonely, with Red hanging on the notes and the rhythm pushing him on. Theme and solo go on their way, and it ends with some great happy conventional chords; it’s perhaps the best ending of the set. And there you have it: nothing but Red Garland ballads. Sometimes that’s all you need.

| Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

comments powered by Disqus


More Articles

Read The Big Wig CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Dreamer Is the Dream CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert CD/LP/Track Review Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Failure of Words CD/LP/Track Review The Failure of Words
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Groove Dreams CD/LP/Track Review Groove Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Kami Fusen CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "Argonautica" CD/LP/Track Review Argonautica
by Troy Collins
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "Solstice" CD/LP/Track Review Solstice
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "The Roc" CD/LP/Track Review The Roc
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival
by John Sharpe
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play...
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Near Life Experience" CD/LP/Track Review Near Life Experience
by John Kelman
Published: June 27, 2016

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!