On October 2, 1959, Red Garland performed at a New York club called the Prelude, which was located at 129th Street and Broadway in the western part of the city's Harlem section (near Columbia University). The Prelude had a reputation for being a piano room -- in other words, a place where people went to hear acoustic pianists. Garland performed more than one set that night, and thankfully, all of them were recorded by jazz's most famous engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Although Van Gelder did most of his work in his New Jersey studio, Prestige hired him to do some live taping for a change. So Prestige had a lot of material to work with. Garland's Prelude gig resulted in various live LPs, one of which was Lil' Darlin'. Forming an acoustic piano trio with bassist Jimmy Rowser and drummer Specs Wright, Garland excels on four selections: Neal Hefti's "Lil' Darlin'," Oscar Pettiford's "Blues in the Closet," Rodgers & Hammerstein's "We Kiss in a Shadow," and the Burke/Van Heusen standard "Like Someone in Love." Throughout the LP, Garland's pianism is immediately recognizable. The improviser had his influences -- who ranged from Nat King Cole and Erroll Garner to Bud Powell -- but he was quite distinctive himself. And when the hard-swinging yet lyrical Garland plays block chords, one can hear how he influenced McCoy Tyner (who was paying close attention to Garland in 1959). Like the other LPs that resulted from Garland's Prelude appearance, Lil' Darlin' demonstrates that the pianist was in excellent form on that night in October 1959.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson