Red Garland – It’s A Blue World

It's A Blue WorldIt’s A Blue World
Red Garland
by John Barrett

Red Garland was truly an embarrassment of riches, and his albums are like potato chips: betcha can’t buy just one. Signed to Prestige from 1957-62, he made an endless stream of records, including much of John Coltrane’s work for the label. So prolific was he that Prestige released new Garlands years after his departure – like this ’58 set, issued in 1970. (The albums didn’t stop until 1977!) His cast is familiar: Paul Chambers (who stood next to Red in the Miles Davis Quintet,) and Arthur Taylor (much recorded, and much underrated.) The songs are familiar, the approach as well; you hear those block chords, you ask for more, and he always delivers. So if this is for you, sit back and take another handful of chips — um, tunes. And savor – Garland is a taste that never goes out of style.

His style is familiar, but that don’t mean no surprises. “This Can’t Be Love”, often done as a swinger, comes in slow, with a tint of light blue. The bridge gets block chords, but higher than normal, not as lush. And, when theme is done, it goes to Paul Chambers for six minutes of bowing! The notes call it “one of Chambers’ longest efforts”; it’s the longest I know of. Staying close to theme, he hums low, sways a long stride, and develops a riff part. This grainy sound is a staple of Garland records – and we start with a double dose. Red returns with a riff of his own, and a skittering hand that runs forever (check that quote of “The Peanut Vendor”!) With the end comes full chords, and the warm glow we expect from Red. That’s right, I’m a fan – and this can be love.

“Since I Fell for You” yawns a weary lament, leavened a bit by the sweet voicings. (Due to the belated release, the notes mention the Lenny Welch version, recorded four years after this one.) Red’s approach is far from Welch; not even the hope of a happy ending. Block chords ring throughout, one of the few times he does this. (It may be a bit much.) Only once do single notes appear, on one bridge beating a craggy blues. Paul’s turn is wiry, ringing strong; his statement of theme is a highlight. When it ends, you see twelve minutes went by, and you never suspected. Time stops when Red plays, and all is well.

“Crazy Rhythm” was heard before; it appeared on DIG IT!, an album with Coltrane. Red’s bit is a darting stream, cool with a flow that won’t stop. Paul bows again for a too-brief solo; Taylor, on his only turn, serves a lot of rhythm. “Teach Me Tonight” is our Big Ballad, without which no Garland set is complete. There’s your grand intro, theme into chords, and a nice easy solo. The structure is set, the execution flawless – it compares well to “You Better Go Now”, from the ROJO album. Then the title track skips merrily, whooshing on the breezy chords. This one dances, and Red punches up the heat with a feisty left hand. Chambers’ bit is a sort of two-note shuffle; his best effort, next to “This Can’t Be Love”. The exchanges are good, and Taylor makes use of the studio echo. Here is a Red Garland moment; most albums have at least one. This disc might not be essential, but if you like Red, you will want to hear it. And when he plays, how blue can the world be?

Rating: *** ½. Decent set, with standouts in “It’s a Blue World” and “This Can’t Be Love”. Not as lively as other dates, but the romance is certainly there.

Songs: This Can’t Be Love; Since I Fell for You; Crazy Rhythm; Teach Me Tonight; It’s a Blue World.

Musicians: Red Garland (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Arthur Taylor (drums).

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