Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Erroll Garner

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Erroll Garner

Erroll Garner performs Col Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You, circa 1960: Erroll Louis Garner (1923-1977) was a 5’2” miracle: a virtuoso jazz pianist whose performances had the nuanced textures of big band charts; whose sheer, overpowering and contagious joy could not help but overwhelm listeners; who created a style of playing that was and remains his and his alone. The official Erroll Garner website contains the following, rather breathless though entirely accurate paragraph: “Garner released music on over 40 labels, received multiple Grammy nominations, and recorded one of the greatest selling jazz albums of all time, Concert By The Sea. His published catalog contains nearly 200 compositions including Misty, which was named #15 on ASCAP’s list of the top songs of the 20th century. He scored for ballet, film, television, and orchestra. One of the most televised Jazz artists of his era, Garner appeared on TV shows all over the world: Ed Sullivan, Dick Cavett, Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, and many others [including the Jackie Gleason show, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, the Garry Moore show, London Palladium show, the Andy Williams show, the Joey Bishop show, the Flip Wilson show, the Pearl Bailey show, the Mike… 

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Robert Greenberg Recommends: Erroll Garner

The jazz-inspired revelation that changed my life at the age of fourteen was foisted on me by none-other-than the Elf himself: Erroll Garner. My dad had a number of Garner LP’s among the various stacks in the record cabinet, most notably the albums “Concert by the Sea” and “Soliloquy”. These records literally drove me wild, and if you had lined ‘em up side-by-side with a scantily clad Gina Lollobrigida and asked my testosterone-ravaged 14 year-old self to choose between the records and the sex kitten, I would have (eventually) chosen La Lollobrigida, but grudgingly and only after a few minutes thought. That’s how crazy these records made me. “Concert by the Sea” was recorded on an open reel tape deck by a serviceman named Will Thornbury when Garner and his trio performed in a church outside of Carmel, California in September, 1955. Garner’s manager Martha Glaser took the tape and played it for George Avakian at Columbia Records. Boom: the LP was made and just like that it climbed to the top of the charts, becoming gone of the most successful jazz records of all time. All these years later, this record still has the power to drive me absolutely… 

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