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Erroll Garner

Born in Pittsburgh in 1921 (Sy Johnson's biographical note in The Erroll Garner Songbook has June 15, 1923 as Garner's birthdate), Errol Garner started playing piano at the age of two (three according to Johnson). He never learned to read music, probably because it was never a necessity for him. He learned to play the 'novelty' styles of Zez Confrey and others from listening to 78 records, a style which used steady left hand chord rhythms to support very free right-hand melodic interpretations. This provided a perfect basis for the hard-swinging jazz style that Garner was to pioneer.

At the age of seven, Garner began appearing on radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh with a group called the Candy Kids, and by the age of eleven he was playing on the Allegheny riverboats. Garner began to attract attention after he moved to New York in the early forties, and shortly afterwards he made his first recordings. By 1950, Garner had established himself an international reputation, and from that point until his death on January 2, 1977, he made countless tours both at home and abroad, and produced a huge volume of recorded work.

Garner's style evolved out of the 'novelty rags' of the twenties. More contemporary jazz influences include Earl Hines, another Pittsburgh native, and the rhythm compings of Freddie Green (Count Basie's longtime guitarist). But Garner was ultimately a very idiosyncratic player, and he doesn't fit well into any of the standard piano style groupings of 40's and 50's jazz. His characteristic traits are of course his steady, guitaristic, left hand compings, and, most obviously, his octaval treatments of melodies and solo lines. The major seventh arpeggio in octaves which introduces Garner's biggest hit, Misty is an example. Another typical Garnerism is the pizzicato, super-syncopated introduction. These intros are often highly independent of the main part of the piece. They range from fanciful to sassy, but always their choppy staccato serves to highten the driving effect once Garner turns on his relentless left hand rhythm.

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Profile

Erroll Garner: 100th Birthday Anniversary Of The Immortal Swinging Maestro Of Jazz Piano

Read "Erroll Garner: 100th Birthday Anniversary Of The Immortal Swinging Maestro Of Jazz Piano" reviewed by Doug Hall


The hundredth birthday of the legendary and brilliant virtuoso Erroll Garner is being marked by tributes including The Erroll Garner Project, which has released additional recordings and a remastering of existing recordings by the swing maestro of jazz piano. His popularity as an in-demand international performer and his landmark record Concert by the Sea (Columbia, 1955) is also a reminder of how Garner brought modern jazz to a larger mainstream audience without ever compromising the integrity of his compositions.

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Album Review

Charlie Parker: Birth Of Bebop - Celebrating Bird At 100

Read "Birth Of Bebop - Celebrating Bird At 100" reviewed by Mark Corroto


Let's face it, there is absolutely nothing new to say about the music of Charlie Parker, unless (insert joke here) you happen to be Phil Schaap. Lao Tzu's quote “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long" is fitting. John Coltrane was 40 when he died in 1967, Eric Dolphy 36 in 1964, and Clifford Brown died at 25 in 1956. Parker was dead at the age of thirty-five in 1955. His legend has grown larger with ...

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Album Review

Erroll Garner: Erroll Garner Plays Gershwin & Kern

Read "Erroll Garner Plays Gershwin & Kern" reviewed by Chris May


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, ...

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Album Review

Erroll Garner: That's My Kick

Read "That's My Kick" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic


Great good luck, even in this news weary day, that Erroll Garner remains the personification of that mythical vaudeville buoyancy that can hold us in its sway, lifting us from all our daily unrest. We're fortunate to be in a time when we can re-explore, rediscover and perhaps even re-imagine Garner's continued impact and influence. Welcome, then, That's My Kick, the latest high-powered release from Mack Avenue Records' acclaimed twelve disc series: Erroll Garner Octave Remastered Series. And ...

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Album Review

Erroll Garner: Campus Concert

Read "Campus Concert" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic


In the history of recorded music, whether it be cave holler, rock, rap, jazz, country or take your pick, there are not a lot of albums that hold one's attention and imagination like the epic Concert By The Sea (Legacy, 2015). But somehow Erroll Garner's other live albums such as this one, the last released in his all too brief lifetime (Garner passed of cardiac arrest, aged 52), or the recently discovered, Nightconcert (Mack Avenue, 2018), in some inexplicable way, ...

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Album Review

Erroll Garner: Campus Concert

Read "Campus Concert" reviewed by Peter J. Hoetjes


Erroll Garner's sixth album on the Octave label would mark a pivotal moment in his career. Not only would Campus Concert be his final live recording, it would be the last to include bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin, who comprised his trio for almost a decade. It remains unclear why, after such remarkable success together, they would separate. The albums he recorded with these sidemen, especially Calhoun, who joined in time for Concert By The Sea (Columbia) in ...

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Extended Analysis

The Octave Remastered Series: Part 2: A Night At The Movies

Read "The Octave Remastered Series: Part 2: A Night At The Movies" reviewed by Peter J. Hoetjes


Part 1 | Part 2 Most people's appreciation for Erroll Garner begins and ends with Concert By The Sea (Columbia, 1955), the pianist's career-defining performance for an audience of U.S. Infantrymen at the Sunset School in Carmel, California --coincidentally, just ten minutes away from the filming location of Play Misty For Me, Clint Eastwood's jazz-tinged thriller featuring “Misty," Garner's most famous composition. The sound of Garner's piano is arguably the most distinctive one in the instrument's history. While ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Campus Concert

Mack Avenue Records
2020

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That's My Kick

Mack Avenue Records
2020

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Birth Of Bebop -...

Ezz-thetics
2020

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Octave Remastered...

Mack Avenue Records
2019

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The Octave Remastered...

Mack Avenue Records
2019

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