Richard "Groove" Holmes's version of "Misty" is certainly sunnier than most renditions of the classic tune. Its infectious joyousness transcends its posh origins and changes them into a whiskey-soaked celebration of nightlife. The musicians go with the flow as the track increasingly sounds nothing like the chord chart after it gains full momentum. When the chart is referenced, though, it stands on its own despite the completely different interpretation. One reason this rendition stands out is that the surroundings were set long before it was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, whose presence often lures musicians into higher forms of expression. Here, his precision helps distill the live essence of Holmes in a tidy yet muscular package. From a production standpoint, Holmes also generates some progressive sounds for the era on his instrument, best represented by a series of dual-fisted chords sustained for several measures and resulting in high-end sonic clashes that echo each other. The analog effect was created prior to the digital age, and, when considering that amplified electric guitar is played here with more punch than usual on a jazz recording from 1965, the approach can be considered an example of fusion in its infancy.
Despite the 3.7 bazillion recordings of this Erroll Garner classic, I could not immediately recall which one made my memory bells go off so strongly. I'm embarrassed to report that it might have been the comedian John Byner doing an impression of Johnny Mathis. Ooops! Sorry Ella. Sorry Ms. Vaughan. And sorry Mr. Mathis. Actually, I've done a little penance here, making note of yet another beautiful version of the tune. Rita Edmond's voice illuminates the romance of the story with a lot of inner detail and texture. Supported by a very supple band (especially Joel Scott's piano), Edmond makes you realize how great this song is, not diminished in the least by repeated listens and viewpoints.
Gene Harris died in 2000. This recording of a 1996 live performance was released 8 years after his death with the reassurance from his loving wife that it represents Harris at his best. Janie Harris has even written a book about the great jazz pianist. That is true dedication from a wife and a music fan. Who is to argue with her?
The first thing that stands out is the recorded sound. It is vivid and crisp. You do feel like you were there amongst the clanging of forks and knives. Guitarist Mullin's sound is over-modulated at times creating some unintended distortion. But that makes things all the more real.
Harris interprets the classic "Misty" with light-fingered high-register runs executed with great speed and aplomb over the molasses-slow rhythm spilled expertly by Cleyndert and Drew. The pianist takes some solo time. His playing is flashy without any cloying showboating. The sense of the tune is clearly implanted in his brain. Mullen takes a fine solo turn only muddied a bit by that issue I mentioned before. Folks, Harris is not reinventing the wheel here. But he does make sure there is enough air in the tires for a safe and enjoyable trip and a smooth turnaround to end things.
Resonance Records claims it is "creating jazz legacies." Certainly they are speaking the truth with this recording.
Fans of Gene Harris will welcome this new addition to the discography of the consummate keyboardist, who passed away in 2000. This 1996 live date at Pizza Express in London captures Harris in a relaxed mood with sympathetic sideman. This pianist demonstrates his crisp, clean touch and sure dynamic control on Erroll Garner's "Misty." For most of its 9-minute duration, this performance stays in tinkly, cocktail-piano territory. Just at the end, Harris begins digging into the funky, gospel-ish vein that was one of this artist's calling cards. For a moment, it sounds as if the pianist intends to shift gears into a rough-and-tumble double-time chorus. But this is just a tease, and Harris wraps up the performance, leaving us wanting more. Fans who haven't heard this artist before may want to make his acquaintance via his earlier work, notably his sideman efforts with bassist Ray Brown, before sampling this London date.
“Misty” is a song that I’ve come to hate, but when I heard this version... Of course, this was written by his mentor, so I don’t doubt that there was a special little vibe when he recorded the piece. Ahmad’s fortitude, his cockiness to say, “You know what? I’m going to put a really funky contemporary groove on this.” Ahmad Jamal does not shy away from contemporary sounds. Whatever is happening at the time, he’ll check it out and figure out some way to personalize it. He didn’t get stuck in time because of the success of “Poinciana”
; in fact, I’d say it compelled him to continue to forge ahead through musical territory.
Erroll Garner and Art Tatum at Birdland, 1952
Photo by Marcel Fleiss
Ah, “Misty,” one of the sweetest tunes in the canon. Erroll Garner’s 1954 recording of his most romantic composition is a slice of heaven. Right from the start, he plays the theme a step behind the rhythm (and against his left hand), accenting it with perfect trills. The effect is 100 percent melancholy. The bassist and the drummer do fine, but they barely matter – this is Garner’s showcase. “Misty” is lovers slow dancing. “Misty” is the lights down low. For these three minutes, time stops.
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