Notes from M.H. Goldsen
It is strange how a young piano player achieves recognition in
the jazz field. There are so many good piano players that some
unusual talent must stand out to make people label one individual,
great. Errol Garner has achieved that distinction.
This writer has been favored with many opportunities to hear Garner
play at his best--at intimate gatherings. Some of these come to
mind--like the time a party of twelve had been told of his prowess
at the piano and were anxious to hear him. It was a Tuesday night,
and after being seated comfortably in the club, we found out that
it was Garner's night off. As a sponsor of the group, which included
Jo Stafford, Paul Weston, Johnny Mercer and others, it was quite
embarrassing. Luckily, Garner, on his night off, was across the
street "digging" Billie Holiday. He graciously consented
to sit in. There was a noisy audience and it was feared that this
would upset the mood. However, as music soothes the beast, a few
bars by Garner and every drunk in the place was hypnotized. It
was a memorable concert, which made those present Garner fans,
from then on.
At other gatherings in Hollywood, musicians like Axel Stordahl,
Paul Weston, Gordon Jenkins and Skitch Henderson were amazed at
his technique and ideas. Many people have tried to label Garner
with names like "The Debussy of Jazz", and surely that
is a compliment. Garner's background serves to throw some light
on his colorful style which could not stem from only a jazz upbringing.
Errol did not have much formal musical education and had to rely
upon his ear for instruction. If you listen to his playing, you
will hear some of his tutors. Outstanding, is Fats Waller. Also
noticeable is the fact that he listened to many classical recordings,
which has influenced his style.
Errol was born in Pittsburgh in 1921. He came from a musical family
which included his brother Linton, one of the better accompanists.
He served a short time with some orchestras, but was definitely
slated to be a soloist. Garner's greatest successes are achieved
at intimate gatherings. Some of his biggest triumphs have been
attained at concerts throughout the nation.
Here are various examples of the Garner style, some of which have
never been recorded commercially. Garner's musical knack of improvising
is best exemplified by "Babette" which he composed completely
at one "take" at a private recording session. "Young
Love" is one of his most beautiful works. There are also
fine examples of his rhythmic style in "Bounce With Me",
"From C to C" and "High Octane ".The original
solos were transcribed by Morris Feldman, an outstanding man in
the field. Garner heard these played by Feldman and was amazed
at their accuracy. These solos will remain a written record of
Garner's greatness and will help other pianists learn the color
which he, and only he, has contributed to piano playing.