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Errol Garner's reputation gets a deserved lift

JAZZ

Erroll Garner, "Ready Take One" (Octave/Sony Legacy).

The relative effacement of Erroll Garner's reputation since his death has been one of the weirdest things to happen in jazz in our time. Yes, it's true that reputations rise and fall over the course of a life, as well as after death but for an ebullient favorite as beloved in his lifetime as Garner to have fallen into near-disappearance was awfully odd, especially considering how wildly popular he was in his lifetime.

What happens on this disc of newly discovered Garner from 1967-71 may change his reputation a bit.

This is not always the Erroll Garner that jazz ears are used to. Musicians and performers of all sorts did impressions of Garner's playing all over the place (Dudley Moore, for instance, and George Shearing) but no one could replicate the Garner who plays Garner's introductions on this record, As notater Robin DG. Kelley says in the notes, the intros are "wild, peripatetic." What he does to "Caravan" is beautifully off the wall. Listen to one tune called "Wild Music."

There are new Garner compositons here but even the venerable Garner classic "Misty" is played in a fresh new way. Kelley is cheerfully hyperbolic about it "Garner's continuous string of arpeggios, runs and extended block chords leaves one with the impression that even eighty eight keys might not be enough." The voice you hear on the record cuing him and urging "more" is his friend/ manager Martha Glaser.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)

 

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