After his contract with Mercury was up, Garner brought his Octave label to London Records. While a lot of other players in his generation were moving to the Fender Rhodes and nudging toward commercial R&B or fusion, Garner continued to play acoustic piano in his singular and classic way. Magician is an album that deftly mixes originals with more standard fare. What makes this great is that Garner isn't swimming against the current of stodgy classics. To denote the changing times, some of the standards are from close to when the album was recorded. Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "Watch What Happens" get an effortless and warm treatment. Garner's playing is lively throughout, and he's obviously in good spirits (as his trademark grunts are the best indictation). He also does some great originals here, including the romantic "Nightwind" and the gospel and ragtime-influenced "One Good Turn." Magician's distinctive sound also comes from the rhythm section of bassist Bob Crenshaw and drummer Grady Tate. Those players as well as Norman Gold's organ make this sound like the great though not ornate '70s jazz album it is. Whether you find this on CD or vinyl, Magician is one of those efforts that has to be included in any eclectic collection.
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