Erroll Garner

1952-1953: Piano Solos

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Erroll Garner made one hell of a lot of records. This 14th volume of Garner's complete recordings consists entirely of material originally released on the Columbia label, beginning with an expansive session from February 1952. Garner's repertoire was perfectly enormous, and included occasional forays onto European "classical" turf. The pianist's great wealth of ideas and his apparent joy in the play of contrasting entities is neatly represented here by a set of "Chopin Impressions" followed by a cheerful romp through Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." Garner savors every drop of "Cocktails for Two," pours thunder onto Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing," and uses an almost ska-like pattern during the introduction to "Dancing in the Dark." Garner's rendition of Gene Austin's "How Come You Do Me Like You Do" deviates wonderfully from the standard early-'50s jazz repertoire, and his powerfully searching "Love Me or Leave Me" picks up where Fats Waller left off in 1929. These are among the best solos that Garner ever put down on wax. Six selections recorded almost exactly one year after the opening session find the pianist in the company of bassist Wyatt Ruther and drummer Eugene "Fats" Heard. "Dancing Tambourine" is delightfully brisk and spirited. The modern recording technology of 1953 allowed for increasingly lengthy tracks, including over five minutes of Eubie Blake's "Memories of You" and more than six minutes of Isham Jones' "No Greater Love." As nice as these gorgeous meditations are, the most amazing cut of the whole package is Garner's own 65-mph opus "Look, Ma -- All Hands!" For sheer firepower and mother invention, Garner was in some ways every bit as formidable an improviser as Bud Powell or Thelonious Monk. The difference lay in Garner's unique approach to audiences and to popular music.

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