Erroll Garner imperturbably played more or less the same piano style throughout his career, blending jazz and pop with a bounce and grin. When he rocks a tempo hard, as on this version of “Confessin,’” he nearly sounds the second coming of Fats Waller, completely free from the bebop influence felt by many of Garner’s piano contemporaries.
These 1949–50 sessions coincided with Garner’s engagements at such famous Harlem showplaces as the Three Deuces, the Apollo Theatre, and Birdland, featuring the unparalleled pianist with two different trios. The original release included Garner’s own “Turquoise” and “Impressions” along with Ravel’s “Pavanne,” Debussy’s “Reverie,” and Basie’s “Blue and Sentimental.”
Garner had one of the greatest right hands in jazz history, and each track unleashes stream after stream of pure flowing melody with a touch so sparkling it even polishes more moody pieces such as “Turquoise” and “Impressions” to a lustrous glow. “Confessin’” is an old-time ragtimey hoot: You can almost listen to the bass like it’s a tuba while Garner rolls the piano keys like he’s strummin’ on the ol’ banjo.
Four bonus tracks include a beautiful “Serenade in Blue” and an amazing nine-minute improvisation on his original “Perpetual Emotion” that should come bearing a “Genius at Work” placard.
The Greatest Garner represented the end of an era for Garner, who signed with Columbia Records in 1950 and subsequently recorded one of the biggest hit songs (“Misty”) and albums ( Concert by the Sea ) in jazz history.
Personnel: Erroll Garner, piano, with John Simmons (bass) and Harold Wing (drums); and with Leonard Gaskin (bass) and Charlie Smith (drums).