The British newspaper The Times once nailed Abdullah Ibrahim's appeal thus: "There are few musicians in jazz who can make you feel that essentially all is right in the world." The late Erroll Garner is another pianist whose music could be similarly described. You might argue that Ibrahim's task is harder, because much of his work deals with painful issues, while the ebullient Garner mostly played feelgood material from the Great American Songbook. But Garner's palette brought its own challenges, not least the need to take ownership of such a well-trodden oeuvrewhich he does to a transformative degree on several of the tunes on Erroll Garner Plays Gershwin & Kern.
This Mack Avenue reissue is a remaster of an album originally released in 1976, a collection of recordings Garner made in Chicago and New York between 1964 and 1967. Side one was given over to five tunes written by George Gershwin, side two to six by Jerome Kern. This latest edition includes four tracks not included on the original release: Kern's "Why Do I Love You," Garner's own "Maybe You're The Only One" and two takes of Gershwin's "Nice Work If You Can Get It."
Garner is variously and unobtrusively accompanied by bassists Eddie Calhoun and Ike Isaacs, drummers Kelly Martin and Jimmie Smith, and percussionist Jose Mangual. Garner was his own rhythm section and never really needed bassists and drummers. When present, they did best to simply to keep out of the way and embrace the groove. As all assembled here do.
Lovely, sunny, timeless music.
Strike Up The Band; Love Walked In; I Got Rhythm; Someone To Watch Over Me; A Foggy Day (In London Town); Nice Work If You Can Get It; Nice Work If You Can Get It (Take 2); Lovely To Look At; Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man; Only Make Believe; Old Man River; Dearly Beloved; Why Do I Love You; A Fine Romance; Maybe You’re The One.
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In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.