He was a great band leader, the Duke Ellington of the blues in the sense that he turned out a lot of stars and a lot of band leaders and people who went on to make their own mark." A supremely agile player, Portnoy has as his trademark an ability to balance passages that are light and filigreed against moments when he pushes down hard on the reed to produce a fiercely heavy tone. According to Portnoy, the popular and faintly disparaging view of the "humble" harmonica ignores the versatility of the instrument. "All musicians want to speak through their instrument which is what makes the harmonica such a valuable tool for playing the blues. Its tonal capabilities are unique, so that you can make it sing, speak, talk, moan, cry, bark, growl, beg for mercy or just about anything else." Jerry's career break came when he was invited to join the Muddy Waters Band.
"I had a day job at the Cook County Jail at the time", Jerry recalls. "Johnny Young had passed away, and a benefit had been organized for his family. I went there straight from work. It was very crowded, but on the way across the room, I locked eyes with Muddy.
He motioned me over and I made my way to his table, where he asked me to play his set with him that night." "After we played, he asked if I was available to travel. Of course, I was. He said, 'You're going to hear from me.' That was on a Tuesday night. That Friday, Muddy asked me to join his band." Jerry replaced Mojo Buford in 1974.
During his tenure with Waters, he appeared on the albums I'm Ready, Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live, and King Bee. Jerry spent the next six years crisscrossing the U.S. and touring the world. With Muddy, Jerry played the White House, Carnegie Hall and all the major blues and jazz festivals; cut three albums (two of them Grammy winners); and shared the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Dizzy Gillespie and Bonnie Raitt. In 1980, Portnoy, bassist Calvin Jones, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and drummer Willie Smith all left Muddy to form the Legendary Blues Band.
Throughout the early '80s, Portnoy stayed with the Legendary Blues Band, recording the albums Life of Ease and Red Hot Blue. Jerry wrote and produced most of the band's original material, served as master of ceremonies and generally ran the business. He earned a W.C. Handy award nomination for his songwriting on 'Life Of Ease', one of two albums the band released. In 1986, he left the band and he briefly retired.
By the end of 1987, he had returned to the scene, founding the Broadcasters with Ronnie Earl. Two years later, he and Earl had a falling out, causing Jerry to leave the group. Portnoy formed his own band, the Streamliners in 1989. Two years later, the band released their debut, Poison Kisses, on Modern Blues Recordings.
Between 1991 and 1993, Portnoy was part of Eric Clapton's All-Star Blues Band, playing on the albums "Twenty Four Nights" and "From The Cradle" and the world tours that followed. After leaving Clapton's band in 1993, he played a number of concerts, releasing his second album, Home Run Hitter, in 1995. Blues Harmonica Masterclass appeared six years later. Jerry's site: http://www.jerryportnoy.com/ Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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