Friday, May 11, 2012

Erroll Garner - The Piano As Orchestra

When we prepared our earlier book review of Timme Rosenkrantz's Harlem Jazz Adventures we came across the following information about how Erroll's career in Jazz almost didn't happen. I wonder how many other talented players got discouraged and were never "discovered" in the world of Jazz during it's heyday?

We decided to "re-discover" the wonder that was Erroll Garner by reposting our earlier piece about him on the left columnar sidebar while displaying below these excerpts from Timme's book as well as an earlier video tribute to Erroll.

- “Young Garner's father was a singer who played several instruments, as did his older brother, Linton. Erroll was an entirely self-taught musician who hit the keys when he was three years old and never did learn how to read mu­sic. But he played like no other pianist, and his flamboyant style was a delight to the ears. He would start a ballad with a long, discordant introduction that didn't even hint at the melody to come. At last when he swung into it, his left hand lay down chords like a guitar, keeping up a steady pulse, while his right hand never seemed to catch up, improvising chords or playing octaves that lagged way behind the beat for the rest of the number. Just a pinch of Fats Waller added spice.

I was fascinated by this fellow's joyously swinging piano, and I sought him out while Louis Prima was on [Garner was the intermission pianist at the Tondelayo Club on 52nd St. in NYC where Prima was the featured act]. Erroll was anything but happy. He didn't know many people in New York and was downhearted. No one was inter­ested in listening to him—Louis Prima was the showman attraction. And Erroll was only making forty dollars a week!

He told me he thought he'd go home soon, as it seemed nothing was going to happen for him in New York. Somehow, I had to stop him. I invited him home to 7 West 46th Street, showed him my rented Krakaur grand, and once he got started, it was impossible to pry him off the bench. Little did I know at the outset that he had a bad case of asthma and couldn't sleep lying down!” [p. 176]

Just click on the "X" when the ads appear on the video to close out of them.