GARNER, Erroll: Standards

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Errol Garner Plays Standards Original Recordings 1945-1949

The composer of "Misty", Erroll Louis Garner, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 15June 1921 and although he never learned to read music in any formal sense, even in his youth he was already improvising and dabbling in composition. As a pianist he was largely self-taught; he first took up the instrument at three, while still a child he was heard on his local radio show Kan-D-Kids. During his ’teens he gained early experience and honed his already awesome technique in theatre shows and vaudeville and on riverboat gigs before establishing himself during the late 1930s in bands around Pittsburgh, notably Leroy Brown’s, during 1937. From his boyhood Erroll received significant peer encouragement from both his pianist brother Linton and his schoolmate Billy Strayhorn, largely at whose instigation, in 1944, he transferred to New York.

In New York Down Beat magazine hailed him "The only two-handed player since Fats Waller!", he met Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker (albeit he never was sucked into the burgeoning bop idiom, he later recorded with Parker, in Los Angeles, in 1947) and was heard in New York’s 52nd Street clubs, notably Tondelayo’s, where during part of 1944 he was in residence. That year he made his first recordings, semi-private efforts made in the apartment of Danish jazz aficionado and promoter Baron Timme Rosenkranz and his wife (later reissued on LP by Bluenote) and also during 1944 Erroll formed a trio with John Simmons and Harold ‘Doc’ West and with this group made his first commercial recordings (issued on Atlantic, Musidisc and Rex, see Erroll Garner CD-1 Yesterdays, Naxos 8.120528).

While in New York, Erroll regularly played other nightspots (sometimes reputedly making nightly appearances at up to four different venues, including the Melody Bar and the Rendezvous) and is known to have deputised after-hours for Art Tatum in the Tatum Trio. During 1944-1945, he also teamed with bassist Slam Stewart (at that time famous as half of ‘Slam & Slim’, a popular commercial jazz novelty duo with guitarist-vocalist Slim Gailhard) and would be associated on and off disc with Stewart intermittently for the rest of his career. Already by this time, however, he was a most prominent, highly individual and distinctive soloist (albeit cast in the mould of Art Tatum, with the odd echo of Fats Waller) whether or not actually playing solo or as a member of a trio.

By 1946 Garner’s work had begun to command a wider audience. In 1948 he appeared at the Paris Jazz Festival, by 1950 he was in terms of jazz record sales already a major success-story and from 1951, in addition to well-earned jazz laurels, Erroll the "swinging romantic" began to carve himself a niche in the more commercially popular sphere of composition and song-writing which would reach its pinnacle with "Misty" when the song acquired world status in 1959. However, the vehicles for these recordings made between 1946 and 1949, for Mercury and other labels all bear the distinct cachet of "standards". Mostly of Broadway musical or film origin, some of the selections are older, some more contemporary to their dates of recording and Garner handles them all robustly, in a few instances rather Kentonesquely, though never roughly.

From Irving Berlin’s treasure-house come Always and Blue Skies (occasionals both, respectively vintage 1925 and 1926); from 1927 comes Sometimes I’m Happy (hit-song of the Vincent Youmans—Irving Caesar musical Hit The Deck); from 1928 come I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby (from the Dorothy Fields—Jimmy McHugh musical Blackbirds Of 1928) and Lover, Come Back To Me (from the long-running Sigmund Romberg score The New Moon); from 1930 come Body And Soul (the Johnny W. Green—Ted Heyman perennial originally heard in Three’s A Crowd), On The Sunny Side Of The Street (McHugh & Fields again, from Lew Leslie’s International Revue) and Embraceable You (from the Gershwin Brothers’ score of Girl Crazy).

From 1931 we have the Gordon Clifford—Harry Barris standard I Surrender, Dear, from 1933 the Fields & McHugh "occasional" Don’t Blame Me and, from 1935, It’s Easy To Remember (the Richard Rodgers—Lorenz Hart hit from Bing Crosby’s period film-musical Mississippi) and our album title-song Stairway To The Stars (a durable by Matt Malneck perhaps better-known in the version with lyrics by Mitchell Parish). From 1936 come two pieces of out-and-out romantic grist to Garner’s mill, the first I Can’t Get Started (music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, from the musical Ziegfeld Follies of 1936), followed by I’ve Got You Under My Skin (an Academy Award-nominated Cole Porter indestructible from the Eleanor Powell—

James Stewart film-musical Born To Dance); from 1937 Where Or When (from the Rodgers & Hart musical Babes In Arms) and Rosalie (Cole Porter title-song of the Nelson Eddy—Eleanor Powell film-musical) and from 1938 Love Walked In (Gershwin & Gershwin again, first introduced by Kenny Baker in the film-musical The Goldwyn Follies). From 1942 comes Skylark (a World War 2 occasional by Hoagy Carmichael) and from 1945 the wistful If I Loved You (from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical blockbuster Carousel).

Peter Dempsey, 2003

The Naxos Historical labels aim to make available the greatest recordings of the history of recorded music, in the best and truest sound that contemporary technology can provide. To achieve this aim, Naxos has engaged a number of respected restorers who have the dedication, skill and experience to produce restorations that have set new standards in the field of historical recordings.

David Lennick

As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennick’s work in this field grew directly from his own needs as a broadcaster specializing in vintage material and the need to make it listenable while being transmitted through equalizers, compressors and the inherent limitations of A.M. radio. Equally at home in classical, pop, jazz and nostalgia, Lennick describes himself as exercising as much control as possible on the final product, in conjunction with CEDAR noise reduction applied by Graham Newton in Toronto. As both broadcaster and re-issue producer, he relies on his own extensive collection as well as those made available to him by private collectors, the University of Toronto, Syracuse University and others.

Disc: 1
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
1 Sometimes I'm Happy
2 Embraceable You
3 Always
4 Lover, Come Back To Me
5 I Can't Get Started
6 I've Got You Under My Skin
7 Blue Skies
8 Don't Blame Me
9 Where Or When
10 If I Loved You
11 Body and Soul
12 It's Easy To Remember
13 I Surrender Dear
14 Love Walked In
15 I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby
16 Skylark
17 Rosalie
18 Stairway To The Stars
19 Everything Happens To Me
20 On The Sunny Side Of The Street
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