The Erroll Garner Project – Retrospective, Part 1 – Octave Music

by | Sep 17, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews | 1 comment

Erroll Garner – Dreamstreet – Octave Remastered Series 01/Mack Avenue MAC1157, 49:18 ****1/2:

(Errol Garner – piano; Eddie Calhoun – double bass; Kelly Martin – drums)

TrackList: Just One Of Those Things; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; Blue Lou; Come Rain Or Come Shine; The Lady Is A Tramp; When You’re Smiling; Sweet Lorraine; Dreamstreet; Mambo Gotham; Oklahoma! Medley: Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’/People Will Say We’re In Love/Surrey With The Fringe On Top; By Chance

Erroll Garner – Closeup In Swing – Octave Remastered Series 02/Mack Avenue MAC 1158, 43:38 ****1/2:

(Erroll Garner – piano; Eddie Calhoun – double bass; Kelly Martin – drums)

TrackList: You Do Something To Me; My Silent Love; All Of Me; No More Shadows; St. Louis Blues; Some Of These Days; I’m In The Mood For Love; El Papa Grande; The Best Things In Life Are Free; Back In Your Own Backyard; Octave 103

Erroll Garner – One World Concert – Octave Remastered Series 03/Mack Avenue MAC 1159, 46:01 ****1/2:

(Errol Garner – piano; Eddie Calhoun – double bass; Kelly Martin – drums)

TrackList: The Way You Look Tonight; Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe; Sweet And Lovely; Mack The Knife; Other Voices; Lover Come Back To Me; Misty; Movin’ Blues; Dancing Tambourine; Thanks For The Memory

Erroll Garner – A New Kind Of Love – Octave Remastered Series 04/Mack Avenue MAC 1160, 41:57 ****1/2:

(Errol Garner – piano; full orchestra: Leith Stevens – conductor)

TrackList: You Brought A New Kind Of Love; Louise; Fashion Interlude; Steve’s Song; Paris Mist (Bossa Nova Version); Mimi; Theme From A New Kind Of Love (All Yours); In The Park In Paree; Paris Mist (Waltz And Swing Version); The Tease; Paris Mist (Trio Version)

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Mack Avenue in conjunction with Octave Music has released the first four restored albums of a 12 album Erroll Garner retrospective. The iconic Pittsburgh jazz pianist has been re-invigorated by The Garner Jazz Project an organization whose purpose is to curate Garner’s considerable recording catalog. In 2015, The Complete Concert By The Sea was released and made it to the top of the Billboard Jazz Chart. Subsequent releases, Ready Take One (2016) and Nightconcert (2018) also garnered commercial and critical success. Now, with the Plangent playback system, the organic quality of the original recording sessions is captured for what should be an eagerly anticipated event. The first remastered album is Dreamstreet. Recorded in 1959, but not released until 1961 was Garner’s debut for his own label Octave Records. From the opening salvos of “Just One Of Those Things” Garner is doing his frenetic, bebop swing, completely changing the nature of the Cole Porter tune. Backed by his classic trio (Eddie Calhoun/double bass; Kelly Martin/drums) a plethora of American standards are rendered with style. Whether it’s the jaunty whimsy of “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Blue Lou” or the bluesy nuances of “Come Rain Or Come Shine” and “Sweet Lorraine”, Garner’s sparkling technique and musical acumen is front and center. His “Oklahoma! Medley” is full of cool swing and hot licks. A bonus track, “By Chance” is a previously unreleased track that is the epitome of slow-burning intensity. All 12 albums will have a “new” track like this.

The next in the series is Closeup In Swing. Again the muscular, blistering piano runs and crescendos transform standards like “You Do Something To Me” and “All Of Me”. Garner’s blues chops shine on W.C./ Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”. He can move seamlessly from dramatic accent to cool swing. He can take a torch song like “Some Of These Days” and infuse high energy. On slower numbers like “I’m In The Mood For Love” and “My Silent Love” Garner’s ability to distill mood is palpable. He can also “jazz up” pop songs like “The Best Things In Life Are Free” and especially “Back In Your Own Backyard” with spirited inflection. The bonus track on Closeup In Swing is an up tempo syncopated bebop performance, “Octave 103”. It is nothing short of compelling. One World Concert was recorded at the Seattle World fair in 1962. Jazz performers are noted for extending themselves in live performances. Garner and his trio are no exception. The opening song is vintage Garner. His unique intro opens “The Way You Look Tonight”. Then his finger-snapping piano solos are masterful with bluesy resonance. He switches gears on “Happiness Is “A Thing Called Joe” with mood underpinned by instrumental finesse. Taking off like a rocket, “Mack The Knife” and “Sweet And Lovely” hit a rhythmic groove and the momentum of excitement returns. A newly released ballad, “Other Voices” is lyrical with several rolling trills. “Misty” may be the most beloved piano composition in American musical history. There is no better interpreter than its author. He surrounds the amenable melody with grandiose flourishes that are magical. This is a terrific 46 minute set, by any measure.

Finishing up the series is A New Kind Of Love (1963). This represents Erroll Garner’s lone film score, and his arrangement skills are top notch. As the string section ushers in “You Brought A New Kind Of Love”, Garner’s style is somewhat restrained but consistently artistic. His interaction with the orchestra is uncanny. There is a call and response feel to “Louise” and the mellow reeds and horns complement Garner. Two versions of Paris Mist (Bossa Nova/Waltz And Swing Version) highlight the versatility of Garner as a composer, arranger and instrumentalist. He reprises the song in a trio version for a grittier blues rendition. Of course, if you listen carefully, the familiar voice machinations of the pianist can be heard.

Kudos for Mack Avenue Music Group for keeping the legacy of a jazz giant alive. All four of these albums are timeless jazz classics. This collection should appeal to Garner fans and jazz aficionados everywhere.

—-Robbie Gerson

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