Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hank Garland: Jazz Winds From a New Direction

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Drummers often lead me to Jazz musicians I may not have otherwise listened to although I suspect that I might have caught up to the late pianist Bill Evans had it not been for dummer Philly Joe Jones’ work with him on Bill’s second LP for Riverside Records - Everybody Digs Bill Evans.

The same would had been true of pianists Benny Green and Bill Charlap had it not been for drummer Kenny Washington’s playing on their initial recordings for Blue Note and Criss Cross, respectively.

And while Joe Morello’s obscure LP for RCA entitled It’s About Time gave me my first exposure to the brilliant vibist Gary Burton, I did hear Gary’s music a year or two later when he became a member of George Shearing Quintet and when he and drummer Larry Bunker formed a short-lived quartet in the mid-1960 after he left Shearing ‘s group.

However, Joe and Gary, in combination, led me to a musician I doubt that I would have found at all without their help.

Because had it not been for their appearance on a Jazz recording entitled Jazz Winds From a New Direction [Columbia LP 533], I might not have purchased it and I doubt that I would have subsequently checked out guitarist Hank Garland.

What a loss that would have been.

Hank was a Country-and-Western music sensation long before John Hammond, the famous Jazz impresario, discovered him and produced Garland’s first Jazz recording [among John’s other discoveries were vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, whom he introduced to clarinetist Benny Goodman, and the Count Basie Orchestra].

I’m so glad that I didn’t miss this LP as Hank’s playing on Jazz Winds From a New Direction was a refreshing and pleasant surprise. He played the up tempo tunes with the speed of Tal Farlow and the ballads with the expressiveness of Jim Hall. He was as technically accurate and as inventive on the instrument as any Jazz guitarist that I have ever heard, before or since.

Jazz Winds From a New Direction has endured as one of my all-time favorite Jazz recordings, so much so that I developed a video using some of Hank’s music on it which, in turn, led to this blog posting about Hank who passed away in 2004.

Here are John Hammond’s sleeve notes from the original Columbia LP.

“It would be fairly safe to venture that Hank Garland is the most recorded of all guitarists. There is scarcely a Country record emanating from Nashville, Tennessee, in which he is not featured behind the troubadours of the Grand 0l' Opry. But it is nothing less than revolutionary to find him leading as tasty a jazz combo as can be heard, on records only, in this year of 1961. We should not be too surprised when a Country and Western star steps right into the forefront of jazz stars.

For Hank Garland isn't the first country boy to make it big in the jazz world. Both Tal Farlow and Mundell Lowe got their starts on WSM's "Grand Ol' Op'ry" in their youth before becoming New York luminaries. But Hank is the first to do it without leaving Nashville. Let us hasten to add that the Hank Garland All-Stars is a group assembled solely for the purpose of making this album in Columbia's Nashville studios. Joe Morello, the superb drummer with Dave Brubeck, was flown in from New York for the occasion, along with Joe Benjamin, one of New York's top bassists. A seventeen-year old vibe player from Boston, Gary Burton, completes the quartet and immediately proves himself one of the discoveries of the year.

For the benefit of future editions of "The Encyclopedia of Jazz," Hank Garland was born near Orangeburg, South Carolina, on November 11, 1930. He graduated from banjo to guitar and arrived in Nashville during his early teens. He was in Paul Howard's country band in the late Forties and made his first Northern tour, joined for a short time by the same Joe Morello with whom he is reunited on this disc. Except for private jamming in clubs around Nashville, he has never before this year publicly identified himself with jazz.

Last July, however, Hank Garland was the motivating force behind a Nashville group that trekked to Newport for the 1960 Jazz Festival. They were scheduled to appear on July 4, but the riots had closed down the Festival the day before and the group was never heard by the fans. The trip was not entirely fruitless, however, for the combo, under the name of the Nashville All-Stars, was recorded there by another label. All this information is but preamble to the title of the first selection on Side Two, "Riot-chous." It is a fast blues of enormous power, and an altogether fitting commemoration of the most tragic event in recent jazz history ."Relaxing" which follows, is a slower blues in which Hank's opening statement sounds like a reincarnation of Charlie Christian.

The first side opens with a beautifully organized "All the Things You Are," which makes it seem all but impossible that this was the first and only time the group was together. After this comes an effective blues in waltz time, then a jumping "Move," followed by an intricate version of the Irving Berlin standard, "Always."
Not only was this Hank Garland's debut as a jazz leader. Don Law, dean of all the Country and Western Artists and Repertoire men, supervised his first jazz session in nearly thirty years of recording and proved himself a threat to all of us who consider ourselves authorities. The last laugh may be on him, if Hank deserts Nashville for the world of jazz.

— John Hammond

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