Erroll Garner

Long Ago and Far Away

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These sides from 1950-51 were the first Garner recorded for Columbia, and like the later Body And Soul reissue from the same label, this disc includes a sophisticated and highly enjoyable program of classic standards. In his inimitable keyboard style -­ a seamless mixture of swing's bounce, pianist Art Tatum's mammoth facility, and some of bebop's mercurial twists -­ Garner glides through fine ballad readings of "Spring Is Here" and "Long Ago and Far Away," as well as compact, medium to fast tempo swingers like "When You're Smiling" and "Lover." Garner's burgeoning knack for abstract song preludes are plentiful too, with his two minute (half the song's length) impressionistic reworking of the chords to "My Heart Stood Still" standing out in particular. Extending the process further, Garner plays cat and mouse with the chords over the entirety of both "It Could Happen to You" and "Laura," creating spectral -- some might say overly florid -- interpretations in the process. The pianist's soft, almost strumming touch endeared him to a millions of fans in the late '40s and early '50s, and made the complex improvisational embellishments almost seem like part of the original composition. A great disc for newcomers and fans alike ­- nicely remastered, too.

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