287

Erroll Garner: 1953

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Erroll Garner: 1953 Listening to an Erroll Garner record is, for me, a little like the first time I drank mezcal, a distilled liquor made from the agave plant—with a worm in the bottle—in Oaxaca, Mexico. An initial sharp and soaring euphoria, unique among the alcoholic beverages, immediately followed by an equally sharp, crushing headache accompanied by nausea. The whole vertiginous process of substance abuse telescoped into a very few minutes' time.

So it is with most of the tracks on 1953, a new installment in the Classics Chronological series of Erroll Garner's complete discography. First, an intoxicating amazement with the rhythmic mastery, a witty take on a tune you love—"Lullaby of Birdland," "Cheek to Cheek," "Avalon"—dizzying, practically hilarious arpeggios and idiosyncratic improvisation throughout. Why doesn't all jazz sound this good?

And then—well before the number is over—you find yourself saying, "Really, old man, don't you think this has gone on long enough?" Shortly thereafter, the see-sawing back-and-forth between an insistent pounding of one chorus, alternating with swishy, muted statements of the theme in the next, begins to resemble the pitiless rising and falling of a stormy steel-grey sea.

This ability to provoke both elation and revulsion in the span of a few minutes (as opposed to only one or the other) is probably unique in the annals of jazz. I'm sure that others won't have quite as strong a reaction as I do (and maybe they can hold their liquor better, too). But the euphoria keeps one coming back for more; and like an excellent mezcal, Garner's music bears repeated savouring, in small, responsible doses. If you accept this diagnosis, then the very idea of the Classics complete recordings enterprise is, well, not for everyone. Having been hooked, I do not want to imagine living without the swooping "Sweet Sue—Just You" on 1953, but I'm not sure how many Garner discs to put in the library.

You might opt instead for the celebrated Concert by the Sea; after all, more of your friends are likely to own it as well, and this confers an added value on the product beyond its intrinsic musical quality. (This is what economists call "network externalities": the value to an individual of a good with such externalities increases the larger the number of other people consuming it, too. You may be able to think of other concert records whose value—unlike that of Concert by the Sea—stems entirely from king-sized network externalities and not at all from the content of the recording: Frampton Comes Alive?)

1953 features parts of two sessions by Garner with bassist Wyatt Ruther and drummer Fats Heard from February and March of the title year. Given Garner's relentlessly propulsive style, the accompaniment is largely redundant, but tasteful neverthless.

Curious readers can learn more about these recordings in AAJ's Ask Ken column.


Track Listing: Caravan; Lullaby of Birdland; Cheek to Cheek; Once in a While; Will You Still Be Mine?; Blue Ecstacy; Avalon; Lullaby in Rhythm; St. Louis Blues; My Ideal; Stompin' at the Savoy; Sweet Sue - Just You; Easy to Love; Mean to Me; I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm; Love for Sale.

Personnel: Erroll Garner: piano; Wyatt Ruther: bass; Fats Heard: drums.

Title: 1953 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Classics


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs CD/LP/Track Review Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Float The Edge CD/LP/Track Review Float The Edge
by John Sharpe
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Resonance CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Black Focus CD/LP/Track Review Black Focus
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Birdhoused CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "The Behemoth" CD/LP/Track Review The Behemoth
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 11, 2017
Read "Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet" CD/LP/Track Review Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5" CD/LP/Track Review Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5
by Doug Collette
Published: October 19, 2016
Read "Soulmation" CD/LP/Track Review Soulmation
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Easy Living" CD/LP/Track Review Easy Living
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "Heaven" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven
by Fiona Ord-Shrimpton
Published: July 3, 2017

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!