Ready Take One

Erroll Garner

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Ready Take One Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Unheard Erroll Garner recordings are a rarity, so the existence of Legacy's 2016 collection Ready Take One is remarkable in and of itself. To have it be excellent is something else, and to have it be a bit of a swinging revelation is another thing entirely. Consisting of sessions recorded in 1967, 1969, and 1971 but only recently discovered, Ready Take One finds Garner working in a trio setting sometimes augmented by a percussionist -- a standard setting for him, but the difference here is that he's often swinging with a soulful touch. Usually known as an elegant pianist, there is a rhythmic kick -- partially derived from soul, partially from Latin rhythms -- that gives this a feel that's distinctive from the rest of his work. Some of this can be chalked up to the era -- Garner's riding the trends, covering Bobby Hebb's AM pop hit "Sunny" and getting lightly funky on "High Wire," one of several Garner originals here. One of nicest things about Ready Take One is that there are several unheard originals, sitting alongside the loungey love song "Back to You" and the exuberant "Wild Music." A couple other originals accentuate the sly funkiness in his playing -- he rides the beat hard on "Latin Digs" and "Chase Me" is giddy with its uptempo bounce -- but that can also be heard with takes on such classics as "Caravan," "Stella by Starlight," and "Misty." Through it all, Garner's inventive, classy playing remains thoroughly recognizable -- this is still the same pianist who crossed over easily with Concert by the Sea -- but Ready Take One illustrates that he continued to stretch and push his playing and, for that, it's more than a welcome vault excavation, it's a joy to hear.

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