Morpheus on… Erroll Garner

Erroll Garner was the greatest post-war jazz piano player – bar NONE.

This was the result of him having TWO extremely rare gifts. One – he was a genius. And two – he was an ambidexter. Let us examine these statements.

The term genius has been seriously devalued of late. Einstein was a genius. As were Isaac Newton and Leonardo DiCaprio. Sorry – Da Vinci.

Most people think of Einstein as the guy responsible for inventing the Atom Bomb – but no. He developed the theories that enabled others to do so. The damn thing would have evolved quite happily without him.

Most people think of Isaac as the bloke who sat under an apple tree and an apple fell on his head, as a result of which he discovered concussion – but no. The man virtually INVENTED PHYSICS.

And most people think of Leonardo as the artist who painted a smug woman against a wonky backdrop – and a dinner attended by Jesus, his Lady and some of his mates – but no. He also invented the helicopter.

Okay, kidding aside, these men’s brains worked at an infinitely higher level than 99.99% of the human race – this writer included – and Erroll was one of them.

But what about his dexterity? Well, many people claim to be ambidextrous – but few truly ARE. MOST of the claimants are actually LEFT-handed people who, as kids, were BULLIED by their teachers and/or parents into using their right hands.

Left-handed people were seen as being at a disadvantage in society – indeed, primitive societies even viewed them as CURSED – thus every time they began to use their left hand, they would be rapped across the knuckles by said parents/teachers.

This constant chastisement lead them to develop right-hand skills – but being naturally left-handed, they retained those skills also.

However, TRUE ambidexterity is very rare. It is essentially a SAVANT skill. When we are born, our brains’ two hemispheres are joined by countless threads, but many of these threads wither and die from lack of use as we develop.

But once in a blue moon, an individual grows up with most of the threads remaining intact. And they find themselves gifted with extraordinary abilities – many of which are only now being understood.

Some possess incredible mathematical skills. Others can play fifty games of chess simultaneously. Still more taste numbers, smell colours, etc.

And whilst many are assumed to be mentally ill, some go on to become legendary scientists, painters, or – as in the case of Erroll – musicians of astounding ability.

Whilst never being able to read music, Erroll composed hundreds of pieces – including the evergreen “Misty” – and quickly became the foremost jazz pianist of his time.

A typical Garner concert playbill had all of the usual entries (write-ups of his career, adverts, etc.) But when you arrived at the PROGRAMME for the evening – it would be BLANK.

Sometimes, there would be an explanation for the empty space. And whilst this reporter has never seen one, he believes it might as well have gone: “We have no idea what Mr Garner will play tonight. Even HE has no idea.”

So what happened at these concerts? Well, at the appointed hour, after his bass-player and drummer had taken the stage, this diminutive (he stood a mere five feet two – thus proving size isn’t everything) be-suited figure would emerge and take his seat on the piano stool, upon which several phone directories had been placed.

He would beam at the audience and begin playing. Incredible random musical sounds would fill the hall, while his accompanists would patiently wait. Then suddenly he would LAUNCH into a number. It would usually be a standard – or occasionally, one of his own pieces.

And the guys would simply JUMP IN.

They would follow him by INSTINCT – it was all they had. But what LUCKY bastards they were! It was a TRIP any musician would have sold their SOUL to take. They were witnessing sheer GENIUS.

So how did it all work? What was his SECRET? Well, Erroll was unique. Left-handed pianists (like Elton John) have a HEAVY left-hand – their style is based around chords – while “normal” right-handed players concentrate on the right hand – which plays the melody – leaving their left hands to just fill the chords.

But Garner had a heavy left AND right hand. However, his MAGIC came from the RELATIONSHIP between those two hands. The left would pound out a “drone” whilst the right hammered out his improvised melody. And then came the trick – he would mess with TIME.

He would constantly play either AHEAD OF or BEHIND the beat, bringing it back together only when necessary, to allow his audience to relate to what was going on.

Garner impressionists try to imitate this technique by simply going out of time at random – which is why they FAIL. Erroll was doing MUCH MORE than THAT. When HE did it, the “gap” between the beat and the melody formed a SEPARATE RHYTHM. It was like listening to TWO people playing – whose brains were CONNECTED.

Which is something NO other player has EVER managed to do. Even for Erroll, it was DIFFICULT (which is why his playing was always accompanied by his little grunts every time he got it right – which was every time).

It was a bit like “triphony” – which is where you take wires from the left and right outputs of a stereo amp and connect a speaker ACROSS them. This gives you a “third channel” – actually, it is merely the DIFFERENCE between the two, which on an old “ping-pong” stereo track means you can “dump” the vocalist, who is usually in the middle, giving you the backing track, in mono.

Some amps have a circuit that will do this for you, which is activated by a button marked “Karaoke” – singing to the ACTUAL backing track of a famous number is WAY better than doing it to one produced by a scratch band or worse still, some berk on a synthesizer.

And in Garner’s case, whilst his left hand played one rhythm pattern and his right played another – the relationship between the patterns created a THIRD. And THAT was what made him unique.

Erroll WAS a genius. He knew it and – whilst always maintaining a dignified modesty – REVELLED in it. Every night was an ADVENTURE. He never rehearsed – he didn’t NEED to. He just DID it. It was PURE improvisation!

But for those who were not there, that genius can only be appreciated through listening to his recordings, since he was taken from us in 1977, at the age of just 55. The most famous is of course, “Concert By The Sea” – but sadly, the original recording of it was of poor quality (and “Misty” is NOT on it).

Much better is Garner at his PEAK – “One World Concert” was recorded at the Seattle World’s Fair in ’63. Erroll totally KILLS – and the sound quality is much better than “Concert By The Sea”.

But avoid the recent CD re-issue – the original producer may have been involved with the re-master, but it’s CRAP. The sound quality is awful, some players “gap out” during the applause between tracks – and one of the best tracks is MISSING.

No, get the ORIGINAL VINYL ALBUM – there are currently a number of copies (some quite cheap) on Ebay as I type. It is the finest recording of the man’s very BEST work (and yes, it DOES include “Misty”). For a sample, hit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXWqmPdU9k4

And now that he’s gone, how long do we have to wait for ANOTHER Erroll Garner?

Well for what it’s worth, I did the maths. Although the parameters are vague (an ambidextrous genius who enjoys doing what he can do) allowing for multiple-odds reckoning, I have calculated that another Garner SHOULD emerge…

In about three hundred years.

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60 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by jan van diepenbeek on September 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    A very good observation !

    Since 1955 I’m following his career and built up a high collection of his works, LP’s, CD’s,
    video’s, DVD’s, foto’s, books, correspondences, well you name it. I think it’s the biggest in Europe.

    I met the man in person twice; it was a very friendly man; a little shy and with no star manners.

    The first time that he was in Holland, in Amsterdam was in 1958, where he gave a concert in “Het Concertgebouw”.

    I was there and became completely hypnotized, what later turned out to be a form of love, what will exist for the rest of my life.

    In 1975 he became seriously ill, suffering from lung cancer (he was an asthmapatient and a heavy smoker) and his ability to make music was gone. He died January 2 1977.

    He once said about his artistry: “I don’t know what it is, in the beginning I had nothing to do with it; sometimes it is gone but with a little messing around it will come back again.”

    You can put my e-mail address – vandiep@hetnet.nl – in this comment if you like.

    Jan van Diepenbeek

  2. Posted by theworldaccordingtomorpheus on September 7, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    THANKYOU for that insight, Jan. I am envious that you MET him. He has always come across to me as a man who was BLESSED with genius and REVELLED in it, but WITHOUT becoming a braggart – something FEW people achieve. His genius was INSTINCTIVE and he ENJOYED it without FLAUNTING it. You doubtless HAVE “One World Concert”, but for those that have NOT and have reached this far – I have put three of its best tracks on YouTube. They are “Misty”, “Sweet And Lovely” and “Mack The Knife”. The above article includes a link to the man at his height (so to speak!)…

  3. What a wonderful article on Erroll’s genius. Your research is top-notch. I’ve been playing piano for 58 years, and can really appreciate the talent it takes. I’m still working at playing Erroll’s style. Don Brooks

  4. Posted by theworldaccordingtomorpheus on April 11, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks Don! A while back, I rearranged my blogroll – so I have now modified the above article (and my answer to Jan’s message) to include a DIRECT link to Garner’s Sweet And Lovely and Mack The Knife. I know the link works – ’cause I am listening to Sweet And Lovely right NOW!

  5. Posted by izzydoesit on November 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I was listening to Erroll on my ipod this afternoon after not having listened to him for some time, and I was blown away by the solo in I’ll Remember April for exactly what you were describing above: that his two hands were moving independently of one another, and suddenly they would diverge one step further rhythmically and there would be this astounding third syncopation going on that was almost too much to bear. And just when you thought you couldn’t stand one more moment of the tension the two hands would converge again in complementary rhythm and the tension was resolved. While it’s intensely pleasurable to listen to him it is also exhausting–the places my brain has to go in concentrating the complexity of his music gives me a headache ;-). Not that I will ever stop! I completely agree with your assessment that he was so far beyond the average person that most people were unable to wrap their heads around his gifts or what he was doing. IMO genius is always misunderstood for this very reason–that and because of the Salieri complex. So many artists die broke, alcoholic, or persecuted because the general public is too limited to understand the genius in their midst or because they realize they will never aspire to that level of greatness. Maybe, like Jung said, one must pay dearly for the divine gift of the creative fire.

    Thanks for posting this and for the tunes you uploaded.

  6. Posted by Morpheus on November 25, 2010 at 2:18 am

    izzydoesit – At least Garner WAS happy, appreciated and successful IN his time. Thanks for your input.

    And I know what you mean about the headache! You have to WORK while listening to him – Erroll’s music NEVER works as “background” music.

  7. Posted by Anonymous on October 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Erroll was a naturally gifted player and in my opinion the best and most original but not for the reasons you give. His technique was beautifully clumsy with both hands. He was not ambidextrous, he was left handed which is why unlike so many other players, his individual fingering skills with his right hand was not blistering but his choice of notes most certainly was. All that stuff you wrote about his brain being different is invention, he worked extremely hard and even when he made a mistake, listening to how he recovered was brilliant. Please don’t make stuff up and hope it sticks, he was a genius, he was left handed by far and he worked extremely hard.

  8. Posted by Vincent on October 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    You have two issues here: Erroll’s brilliance – and his dexterity.

    I don’t think we really disagree on the first: in my second para, I stated he was a genius – and if you saw my description of same as being an “accident” caused by Savantism, I can only say I did not intend that interpretation. His abilities may have been helped by his brain being “wired differently” – as many are now saying aided some of the great artists – but that does not take away his innate personal genius.

    As for the second: Mike Hennessey states, “[Erroll] was completely ambidextrous and could write and play tennis right- or left-handed with equal facility.” On the other hand (so to speak) Teddy Wilson says,”He was left-handed, but his right hand had all the agility he needed…I suppose the true answer is that he was ambidextrous.”

    Wiki does not get into Erroll’s dexterity, but other sources have also mentioned it. There is no way the issue can now ever be truly resolved, other than by the individual’s interpretation of what they are hearing, when they listen to the man’s work.

    The above is merely MY interpretation…

  9. Posted by Anonymous on October 20, 2011 at 7:23 am

    I don’t know why or how he played the way he played, I just know that he is the best there has ever been. He makes me so happy to hear and so happy to watch – thank god for YouTube and all this fabulous footage that we may never have got to see. He even said in an interview that he plays ‘happy jazz’ and he certainly does. I never thought there could be such humour in music without compromising the ‘music’ if you what I mean. And I agree with you earlier in this thread – I keep putting him on in the background while I work and find I cannot work but just end up listening! You just can’t help it! And if listening to a song is not enough, then the endings of his songs will just about finish you off!! Then if you like a particular song you can hear it many different ways with Erroll because of his incredible improvisation. There is no one like him and I don’t think there ever will be.

  10. Posted by Vincent on October 20, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I concur. Whilst I stated in my piece that there ought to be another Erroll in about 300 years – that was only to point out the uniqueness of the man.

    But as you say, he was about even more than his enormous talent – whether aided by Savantism or not. There is his personality to consider: his impish humour, coupled with humility and sheer joie de vivre made him unique.

    The truth is there will NEVER be another Erroll Garner.

  11. Posted by Len Schwartz on November 5, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Love Erroll – a big part of my life for 55 years now.I will always be amazed at his ability, and thankful for his music.He simply makes me happy to be alive and listening. Thanks for the post.

    Len

  12. Idolized him from a kid…the most happy piano indeed.

  13. Posted by Tony on December 8, 2011 at 2:25 am

    I enjoyed all the comments about the great Garner. I have loved & listened to him since the 50’s, saw him live. Have always marvelled at his style & inventiveness & humour. Your comments thought he was left handed, ampidextrous. Whatever he was, he was gifted, a very lucky man & I will always love him, whatever the reason was.
    But in a new vein, have any of you Garner fans seen or listened to 2 Brit. pianists, namely Bob Bromhead, saw him live & got his only cd, very Garnerish & a very driving style, lovely to listen to. He started playing clubs etc.in London from the age of 14,& I eventually got into his playing when he was in his 60’s.
    The other genius I had the pleasure of seeing & listening to, at Ye olde Leather Bottle pub in Merton Surrey, & at The Bulls Head pub in Barnes, Surrey was TONY LEE. His trio was always accompanied by Tony Archer Bass & most of the top drummers around at the time. Very, very Garnerish. Great ideas a joy to behold. His rendering of Misty made me compare it to 6 versions of same by Erroll G. I loved Tony’s version. Maybe I am biased, as Tony Lee became a friend & I spent my 65th B/Day, 2003, listening to him on a Barge on the Thames at Battersea, London. Unfortunately, he passed away April 2004, of Cancer, a big loss to the Jazz scene in Surrey & London.
    Unfortunately, his work was not shared much with the public, as he virtually gave away the Copy rights & so his Nephew Mike Lee was unable to market his music for fear of being sued. Shame, cause Tonys’ wife got nothing back monitory wise from all his albums. I’m sure one of his albums is on sale, somewhere. Worth a listen. Pure Genius.
    Thank you if you read all this, they’re my feelings & views on 3 Geniuses.

  14. Posted by Vincent on December 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I too was a Tony Lee groupie in the Seventies! Used to see him at the Kensington and various other pubs – and of course, the Bull’s Head (always with his long-time companion [just kidding!] Tony Archer). There are various examples of his work on YouTube – some of them put there by ME! Tony was a really nice guy (bought me a drink once) and I still recall the cheer that would go up at the Bull, when Tony would break into a bit of Garner. I was deeply sad to hear of his passing.

  15. Posted by Tony on December 20, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Hi Tony Lee Groupie, I’m over the moon that someone else (you) had the pleasure of hearing this great player & lovely man. He never got the chance to buy us a drink, cause my cousin Len & I plied him with drink & cigars. cause he brought us such joy. Yes, same at The Leather Bottle, Merton. A loud cheer always went up when he broke into Garner. I still say he also was a genius similarly to Garner but stayed as a Pub Pianist, wheras Roy Budd ? who married Caterina Valente & made it bigtime in the States. It just all depends on that lucky break in life to come your way. Thank you so much for replying to my earlier comment, as i felt that Tony would just fade away unnoticed & an uncryed Beaut of a Pianist. I will view your utube entries & see if I can get in touch somehow, as I feel we need to talk…

  16. Posted by Vincent on December 20, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Be glad to hear from you. I had Roy Budd as a celeb fare once, in my (high-end) minicab. Nice guy. He did well with film scores, etc. But Tony brought JOY to people!

  17. Posted by Tony on December 21, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Hi Vincent.good to hear from you so soon.If you want to email me we can talk about what music you have of Tony Lee as I was lucky to buy a few albums

  18. Posted by Vincent on December 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Will do!

  19. Posted by Kaktusblume on January 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    You are absolutely right: One World Concert is an unsurpassed work of genius!

  20. Posted by Vincent on January 19, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    THANK you. I think it has been overlooked in favour of Concert By The Sea (the ORIGINAL of which suffers from mediocre recording standards) due to its referencing in Clint Eastwood’s movie, Play Misty For Me. One World Concert is WAY better!

  21. Posted by Anonymous on February 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    tremendo, artículo!

  22. Wow, I have always appreciated Erroll Garner but after your writeup I more clearly understand why and now appreciate him all the more. Many thanks.

  23. Posted by Vincent on May 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks. You can get bad information – but I researched this one pretty fully from multiple informed sources. And with that and my knowledge of music and experience of Erroll, I believe my article has merit.

    Of course, there will always be some who will put their own interpretation on things. However, I stand by all I wrote about Erroll: he was blessed by being ambidextrous – and a genius who knew it – but who always remained modest.

    And above all, he revelled in his gifts – having fun and giving enjoyment to countless millions – and through the recordings, will continue to give joy to countless more.

  24. Posted by Ted Exley on May 18, 2012 at 6:16 am

    In my youth I saw many of the top jazz players, MJQ, Eckstine, Ellington, Count B, Mulligan, Getz, Kenton and such, but this man left the biggest impression of all. He was simply fantastic and played for two hours, solid. We enjoyed it, but so did he. What a pity that he died so young.
    Ted

  25. Posted by Vincent on May 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I ENVY you, Ted! If I had a time machine, I would go and see ALL of the giants you list. I WAS lucky enough to catch Buddy Rich several times, at his Seventies height. The night I spent at Ronnie’s – two shows, four sets – was the best night of my LIFE. (I’m even on the RECORD RCA were recording that night). I met Buddy several times and – those “bus tapes” aside – knew him as a REALLY nice guy.

    I once saw Getz briefly, but for the rest, I had to mostly settle for some of Britain’s greatest players. Although nights spent sitting under Tony Lee’s piano at the Kensington, seeing the best of British at the Bull’s Head (with the occasional visiting American on a Sunday, when Ronnie’s was dark – Buddy turned up one night) and others at the New Merlin’s Cave helped make up for my being BORN TOO LATE!

  26. Posted by Tony on May 20, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Vincent, we spoke before, I’m sure. You were lucky enough to see Tony Lee, a lot of folk didn’t. I rate him amongst my Greatest. I saw live i.e., Sarah Vaughan Count Basie, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson & Errol Garner amongst many more, so dont be blue. Tony Lee is up there in my list of Greatest. But Garner was definetely the business.
    Tony R.

  27. Posted by Noreen Jackson on June 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I met Errol Garner one night at the Baked Potato Club in North Hollywood, CA, in the seventies and was introduced to him by Sweets. It was a Sunday night and the group playing was the Sweets Edison group comprised of some great jazz players and the joint was jumping. Sass, Marshal, Sweets, Earl, Harold, Myno, Errol and more were hanging out at Myno’s house in Toluca Lake after the gig. I sat on the floor with Errol (shortage of chairs) and talked to Errol for more than a half hour. What a gigantic opportunity to sit and chat with someone whose musical ability and taste I admired.

  28. Posted by Vincent on June 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I DROOLED with envy, reading your account. I have been lucky enough to converse with Buddy Rich – but ERROLL! Sad that there is no chance now, for me to do likewise. Erroll, wherever you are – RIP.

  29. Posted by Noreen Jackson on June 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Well, Vincent, none of the meetings with people were planned. I happened to be a jazz singer who ran in some great circles and met most of my musical heroes. Erroll was the most gentlemanly person and must have been on the brink of his illness when I met him. He was playing at Concerts By The Sea and came to see Sweets, Sass and all the other great musicians and singers who used to hang at the Baked Potato in those days. You are probably quite a bit younger, thus the chances to meet many who mentored me would have been not quite as happening. I also met Buddy through a drummer. Living in Toluca Lake (Burbank/North Hollywood) meant that almost everyone in jazz came to town in L.A. I also knew Oliver Nelson and met Cannonball Adderly when he came into the club and my boyfriend conducted an album Cannonball was making shortly before Cannonball died also in the seventies. Talk about a star-studded funeral service. I feel privileged to have met and known so many jazz greats and had them as friends. Nothing more special than jazz artists. You are doing a great thing by having this information posted about Erroll Garner. He was a fine gentleman and a great artist. One of a kind.

  30. Posted by Noreen Jackson on June 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Hey Vincent, I like your posting on Les Paul, too. I was born in 1940 and that music happened in my growing up years. Although hooked on jazz, I can appreciate the rock guys because the studio players who backed rock and blues people were jazz musicians and they put some character into the somewhat bland music. Interesting post. I did not know how to post to the Les Paul blog. Take care.

  31. Posted by Vincent on June 2, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks for your two comments (now “approved”). I looked you UP! You have a lovely voice. For those stumbling upon this – here is an example of Noreen’s work. (If you are seeing an URL, click on that – if it’s a picture of Ms Jackson, click on the “play” symbol in the middle – then on the line “Watch On YouTube”).

  32. Thank you for this well written and thorough article. You’ve provided more insight into the life and playing style of one of my favorite pianists.

  33. Thank you very much for this labor of love, this article and everything behind it. Do I remember correctly that Mr. Garner hummed audibly when he played? If so, he had this in common with Glenn Gould, the Canadian ‘genius’ of classical music, especially his performances of Bach.

  34. Posted by Vincent on September 18, 2012 at 11:33 am

    It was more a series of grunts of satisfaction, every time he got one of his trickier improvisations RIGHT – which resulted in a LOT of them!

  35. I’ve loved Garner ever since at fifteen I first heard him playing piano on radio. I remember thinking if Jesus played piano He’d sound like Erroll. Of course, the passage of time has led me away from formal religion but not from Garner.I still spend joyful hours listening to him and looking for anything new about him .At one time or another, I’ve asked myself the same questions posed in wonderful lovely blog. Was Erroll a savant? My brother is a psychiatrist and I’ve known several others. The consensus is he handled himself too well to be a Savant as classically portrayed.Still, I wonder. Doran writes in his book, The Most Happy Piano, that Erroll’s agent, Martha Glaser, always handed him a stack of five dollar bills for tips etc.One can read a lot into that. .
    I suspect anyone who knew much about “The Elf” will recognize him as the pianist in two short stories of mine, “Crescendo” and “Phineas Rising.” Both appear in my first collection, Half-past Nowhere(2008).
    The truth is Erroll is one of those rare strangers who has added more to our lives than he could ever imagine. It angers me no end that some critics have failed to give him his due. Ken Burn’s omission of him in his documentary,Jazz, is unforgiveable. Wynton and Stanley Crouch should be ashamed.
    I’ve decided the reason some play down Erroll’s place in the pantheon of jazz greats is because he never was one to offer tortured analysis of his art. There still exists the prejudice among many jazz afficionado’s that if one becomes popular and/ or doesn’t end up penniless and addicted to drugs, he/she hasn’t suffered enough to be a true artist. Even Bird knew he never played better than when he “was cold sober.”
    Try listening to Garner without feeling the unalloyed joy of being alive. It’s far easier to pat your head and rub your belly… while skating and reciting the Pledge of allegiance backwards!

    .

  36. Posted by Vincent on December 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Great comment. I think perhaps many misunderstand the BEAUTY of savantism, due to people possessing it previously being known as “idiot savants”, due to it being associated with those who had exceptional skills, leavened with an inability to relate to people.

    While true with SOME, it was certainly not universal. Erroll had the exceptional skills, but was a sweetheart to everyone around him. It seems to me that savantism is only now slowly being considered as a gift, rather than a curse.

    I haven’t read the Ken Burn piece, but anyone writing ANY examination of Jazz without including Erroll should give UP writing!

  37. Vincent,
    Ken Burns, famous for his television documentaries The Civil War, Baseball, etc., did a several part television documentary about jazz. He took a lot of flack for leaving Erroll out and deservedly so.

  38. Posted by Vincent on December 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I LOOKED UP this …person (I’ve never met him, but already I don’t like him). He is American; so being British, I had not heard of him – but it turns out he is a well-known (and award-winning) maker of TV documentaries, on disparate subjects. His 2001 series “Jazz” garnered five Emmy nods – but won NONE (GOOD!)

    It seems that despite being almost the same age as myself (60) his (LONG) series concentrated primarily on early Jazz, virtually ignoring all who have shaped it, post-WW2 – for which he was heavily and rightly CRITICISED (“Ken Burns’ interminable documentary, Jazz, starts with a wrong premise and degenerates from there…”).

  39. Posted by Noreen Jackson on April 1, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Hi Vincent,
    I have to say that I agree with your assessment of the Ken Burns jazz docudrama. He focused on Louis Armstrong (I loved Armstrong’s talent) and was excessively influenced by Marsalis (Wynton),

    Thanks for the kind words about my musical efforts. I just sing and love it. Have sung since I was a tiny tot. My sister and I sang as kids around the Chicago area. We must have hit most of the churches. I was in the band in High School and grammar school (played flute, second chair in high school. Hated marching band so quit band!). I think back on the days when I heard great music which included Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughan, Dakota Staton. We loved to dance to Earl Bostic. My later boyfriend played with Bostic on recordings. Life is a circle. RIP, Erroll, a fine gentleman and pianistic genius.

    Noreen

  40. Posted by Vincent on April 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I fell in love with Earl Bostic’s 1951 “Flamingo” (recorded a year before I was born) as soon as I stumbled across it, as a boy. I have put THAT up on YouTube – both a clean 78 – and a rare 45 I acquired by a fluke, just before retiring to the Orient. And Erroll first came to me courtesy of a 45 single that had been (expertly) cut from two of his best tracks on “One World Concert”. It would be many years before I would track down the album.

    But my point is, I was able to appreciate the genius of both these men – even coming from a background (Fifties England) where I never heard Jazz – as soon as I heard them, aged less than TEN. Genius just FLASHES. You can FEEL it. Age and background are irrelevant!

    Once I left school (1969) I moved to London and immersed myself in the then-vibrant Jazz scene (pubs with superb British Jazz players) and caught many of the American greats at Ronnie Scott’s Club. I became a massive fan of the legendary Buddy Rich. I was THERE when he cut possibly his best-ever album, at Ronnie’s. And I got to MEET the man. Forget the “bus tapes” – Buddy was a sweetheart!

  41. Posted by Anonymous on August 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    I have two stories regarding Errol. 1. I was performing, (on piano) at this cozy jazz club in NY when Errol came in with two woman. I was in a terrible mood because the piano had broken keys and was out of tune. The owner was too cheap to care.

    Anyway, after awhile, Errol came up to me and said, “How come you didn’t invite me up to play like you usually do?” I replied, “I’m sorry Errol, but I just couldn’t insult you by asking you to perform on this piece of junk. Several keys are broken, and the damn thing is really out of tune. I’ve been depressed all night.”

    Then he said, “I know. That’s okay.” He smiled. “I just want to impress these two ladies.” I laughed and said, “Okay.” Then I announced him and he sat down at the piano. I went over to his table and joined the ladies. Then he started playing… and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He sounded great! The piano sound great.

    After he was through, I told him I couldn’t believe how good the piano sounded. It was what he then said that I’ll remember for the rest of my life: “Don, when they won’t show respect and refuse to tune or fix the piano, just remember one very important thing; when you’re good, you’re good, and your audience knows it.” I smiled and thanked him. I returned to the piano… and played my ass off. : )

    2. I was performing at the Americana Hotel in NY when Duke Ellington walked in with Errol. Because I knew them both, Duke stood just left to my shoulder and Errol stood next to my right shoulder. We exchanged greetings and I commenced to play one of Duke’s compositions, then I looked at Errol and began to play Misty. He smiled. As I was playing I realized that everyone in the audience had their eyes on these two legends. Still playing Misty, I turned to Duke and said; “All of a sudden I’m beginning to get nervous.” To which Duke said, “So would I if Errol Garner was looking over my right shoulder.” The three of us laughed. God bless them both.

  42. Posted by Vincent on August 8, 2013 at 1:20 am

    I don’t know who you are – “anonymous” – but that was possibly the best comment I’ve ever had, on WordPress. Nothing to add, except thanks.

  43. Posted by Noreen on August 8, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Great stories and fun to read. Those of us who knew the great musicians have those memories.

  44. Posted by Anonymous on August 12, 2013 at 1:06 am

    Great story.Great man.I weaned myself on Oscar Peterson & at the time (50 yrs ago) thought he was the greatest (loved him) But when I listened to Erroll G I ended-up besotted by the man.Sadly dont listen to Oscar.P now & have to have my Erroll FIX every week.Tony.R.

  45. Posted by Anonymous on October 2, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Ever heard of Bob Milne?

  46. Posted by Vincent on October 3, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I hadn’t. But a check on Wiki revealed… “Experiments conducted by Penn State neuroscientist Kerstin Bettermann established that Milne has the unusual ability to mentally “play” up to 4 symphonies in his head simultaneously” – so he sounds as if he has those savant abilities I have spoken of.

  47. Hi Morpheus (Vincent?)

    It seems that we have a few things in common. For a start we have the same template for our blogs, I too live in south-east Asia, as my pen name indicates, am British and love Errol Garner.

    I count myself as blessed because I saw him at the Brighton Dome in ’66.

    The hall concert was so sparsely attended that I was able to grab a front row seat in the balcony and gaze down at his beaming smile. To quote Jan Van’s (first comment), I “became completely hypnotized”, the difference being that I was already enamoured, hooked for life because my father bought ‘Concert By The Sea’ back in c.’65.

    J

  48. Posted by Vincent on January 3, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    It’s a shame about “Concert By The Sea” – even a mint copy is poor quality, because the original recording was poorly done. If they had only known what a CLASSIC it would become.

    My favourite album by far though is “One World Concert” (1963) – it is Erroll at his BEST.

    However, you must get the VINYL ALBUM. There IS a CD of it, but despite the “remastering” being aided by the original engineer (unusually, a woman) it is APPALLING.

    There are tracks MISSING, unwanted pauses between the tracks – and they tried to “synth-stereo” it, pushing the whole thing out of phase and making it sound “lop-sided”.

    I managed to secure a vinyl copy of the original US release in good condition from Ebay, for not too much money – and it arrived here in Thailand intact. I have put the best tracks on my YouTube channel (including “Misty” – which most people ASSUME is on “Concert By The Sea” – but ISN’T).

    But then, you’ve probably heard those already!

    “One World Concert” was recorded at the Seattle World’s Far – and if I ever encounter the TARDIS… …I am VERY jealous you SAW the great man!

    Mike

    p.s. My love for Erroll’s music was enhanced by a much earlier track – “Dancing In The Dark” – a SOLO piece (no trio) he recorded around 1954. It is MAGIC and IS available (thankfully, un-mucked-about-with) on CD. I didn’t put that up on YouTube, as someone had beaten me to it – check THAT out…

  49. Posted by Paul Haywood on January 4, 2014 at 5:19 am

    Just come across this site. I too was first smitten by Errol when I was just a Lad (early 1960s). My first Errol record I heard was courtesy of the British DJ Jack Jackson who played the “Mac the Knife” 45rpm on his Saturday lunchtime programme. I was gobsmacked by it and went out to buy the next day. Imagine my surprise when, some time later when I could afford to buy the full “One World Concert” LP, that the actual track was twice as long! Bliss! Since then I have listened to his music consistently, and had the pleasure of seeing him in concert at Sheffield (1967?). BTW, my favourite track on OWC is “Moving Blues” which I have never heard him play since. Did he record it at any other time?

  50. Posted by Vincent on January 5, 2014 at 2:26 am

    I do not know of any other recorded performance (although there are a number of kinescopes of his European TV concerts – one of those may contain it) but having composed it, I’m sure he performed it in some of his many live concerts.

    Your story echoes my own (I’m currently 61). Before I discovered his circa 1954 solo rendition of “Dancing In The Dark” around ’67, I too was introduced to the great man by that 1963 single.

    Having a 78 of Jack Hylton’s early ’30s version of “Sweet And Lovely” I was familiar with the melody on the ‘b’ side and even at 11, had heard “Mack The Knife” (Bobby Darin’s version).

    But Erroll’s versions blew me AWAY, on the single I happened across in a deleted records box at my local record shop (I had heard OF Erroll through my uncle, who was a Jazz fan, so decided to check it out).

    Needless to say, upon hearing it, I played it through to the FELT! So you can imagine how, about 10 years later, in the early ’70s – I was blown away AGAIN, when I finally heard (and taped) a copy of the ALBUM and discovered there was MORE to these two tracks!

    The thing was, the engineer had done such a SMOOTH job of cutting the tracks down, I had been totally unaware I had been listening to the “radio edits” for the last decade!

    For over 30 years, I’d had to make do with the audio-cassette I’d recorded of it in the ’70s – but when I finally went “online” about 5 years ago, I finally acquired a clean original copy of it, through Ebay.

    I listen to it often – and the single now resides on my JUKEBOX!

    But I find it hard to understand why the release of the album was DELAYED for two years. It was put together in ’61, but not released until ’63. What was WRONG with Reprise?! (In this case, the label’s name is ironic: the ’63 release SHOULD have been a reprise – of the ’61 release!)

  51. Posted by Vincent on May 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Here is Noreen Jackson’s latest (see above). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYAKFUr4X3o

  52. Posted by Noreen Jackson on May 12, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Hi, I thank you for posting my video link. BTW, in a fit of pique, I was so angry that google had hijacked youtube that I then deleted all my videos and and only reposted a few. Thanks again!

  53. Posted by Vincent on May 13, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Oh, I can relate to THAT! In one of my pieces in m’columns I wrote… Cornelius on… Google – March 17, 2014 by Vincent – “Don’t be evil – but it’s okay to be monumentally PUSHY, INVASIVE, CONTROLLING, SNEAKY, CREEPY AND ARROGANT.”

  54. Posted by Noreen on May 13, 2014 at 9:56 am

    And how did they acquire the power to tell us what we can do with our postings, music, etc….? I never twitter, facebook or any of that stuff but I can imagine why people do. When you post at facebook, you are giving them rights to your music and photos. NOT! I am watching Criminal Minds on TV and taking notes.

  55. Posted by Anonymous on June 25, 2014 at 10:39 am

    1st sentence…..”post war”……..do you feel someone “pre war” (? Teddy Wilson) was indeed better ??

  56. Posted by Vincent on June 26, 2014 at 5:57 am

    I know Erroll was influenced by a number of pre-war players, such as Fats Waller. Then again, ALL musicians are inevitably influenced by their predecessors. Teddy Wilson was highly rated (and was a contemporary of Erroll’s, even though he was a decade older) both pre- and post-war. But no, I don’t think Teddy was better, in the post-war period.

    As for pre-war players, since my knowledge of pre-war jazz is limited, I elected only to claim Erroll ruled the POST-war scene.

    In any case, it is unfair to compare ANY artist – or sports-player – against artists or sports-players from another era. Was Chris Rea better than Bing Crosby? Would Mike Tyson have battered Rocky Marciano?

    Who can know? In any event, an artist or sports-player only has to compete with their contemporaries. Time-travel doesn’t EXIST (as far as we know). Thus the most one can say is that someone was the best in their time – and Erroll certainly qualifies as THAT.

  57. Posted by lieury on October 26, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for that really nice text about Errol Garner. And you are so right: when listening to One World Concert, you realize that EG takes you very high in the sky, like very few artists can do. And he was supposed not to have learned music in the beginning.

  58. Posted by Anonymous on April 18, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I miss him and his music to this day.

  59. Posted by Pablo Julián Davis on December 10, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Greatly enjoyed your take on Garner’s playing, Morpheus. I agree with your appreciation of him as a genius, and your analysis of what made him a creator apart. I discovered his LP Gemini in my high school library, many moons ago, and missed countless classes listening to this astonishing and original artist… only to experience this bitter blow: he died just before I graduated from H.S. Below is my take on a single Garner performance, which to me is his (or anybody’s) best jazz piano performance ever.

    HOW HIGH THE MOON (GEMINI, 1972)
    “I nominate this astounding, utter masterpiece for greatest jazz piano solo ever. A dizzying, 5-minute rocketship ride to the moon and back courtesy of Erroll Garner’s inexhaustible gift of invention. A perfect 8-bar gospel-blues intro, the 16-bar head, then EIGHT – count ’em! – blistering choruses, each with something new and different to say about the tune, building up, building up, then building up some more… Garner creates a cathedral of sound here. Who even attempts something like this, much less pull it off with such brilliant abandon? 80-90% of jazz pianists have pretty much exhausted their ideas after 2 choruses, and likely even before the end of the 2nd chorus they’re just phoning it in with desultory block chords or random, gratuitous bluesy takes on the head. Garner? Well, he’s joyfully building a cathedral. One particularly amazing passage is the entire 7th chorus (from around 3:37) with its unison figures ascending, descending, then ascending a little higher, and so forth to a climax and brilliant resolution. A little remarked feature of Garner’s playing is his brilliant use of sequences, which lend astonishing coherence and power to his improvisation. Just a few instances: starting at 2:25 (5 descending figures); starting at 2:38 (2 figures, but each one complex and two bars in length); right after that, one starting at 2:43 (four ascending one-bar figures); and right after that, one starting at 2:54 (two descending one-bar figures). Garner is so much more than the entertaining “most happy piano” player… every hearing of his works rewards us with more treasures.”–Pablo J. Davis

  60. Posted by Noreen Jackson on December 10, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Just an astute perception of a great artist and nice gentleman. Wondered if you gents were familiar with the astounding music of Phineas Newborn, Jr. I knew Phineas when my friend Hamp Hawes was recording for Contemporary Records (as was Phineas). Hamp introduced me to Phoneas and we went gig shopping one night. Very nice guy and he was grateful that I took him to various clubs.

    Noreen

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