Archive for Errol Garner

Boogie Woogie Boogie – Errol Garner

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on February 3, 2017 by telescoper

I have lately posted a number of classic boogie woogie and blues performances by the great Jimmy Yancey. Here’s a piece that’s related but really very different, recorded in 1944 by a musician not usually associated with boogie woogie at all, Errol Garner, who was 23 when this track was made.  The story I heard about this is that the studio bosses leant on the young and impressionable pianist to do play some things that he wasn’t keen on, including a bit of boogie woogie. Eventually Garner acceded to their request, and produced what I think is a minor masterpiece called Boogie Woogie Boogie. Note the way he doesn’t stick to the same left-hand figures throughout the track which makes this much more varied than most recordings in this genre. I particularly like the transition at about 1:35 where it all goes a bit “Batman”!  It also has a distinctively dark minor-key feel to it, which is rather atmospheric.

Have a good weekend!




Bird’s Nest

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2013 by telescoper

I know it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, but I’ve got so many things to do that I don’t have time for anything but a brief post today. I heard this track on BBC Radio 3 last night and it brought back a lot of memories for me so I thought I’d post it here with some brief comments. When I was at school most of my friends seemed to be into heavy metal, which I found completely tedious, so while they were out buying LPs by Hawkwind or Iron Maiden I was acquiring a secret collection of classic jazz records. Among my most prized purchases was a boxed set of six vinyl discs entitled The Legendary Dial Masters; they’re now available on CD, of course. I listened to these records over and over again and can easily understand why they’re regarded as some of the greatest musical performances of the twentieth century, not only in Jazz but in all music.

There’s a curious story about the Dial sessions, in that they took place in Hollywood California as part of an “exclusive” one-year contract (signed in 1946) between Dial records and Charlie Parker, who just happened to have signed another exclusive contract with the Savoy label based in New York.   By this time in his life, Parker was already seriously addicted to heroin and this example of duplicity is consistent with other aspects of his behaviour: he regularly cheated and scrounged off friends and strangers in  order to feed his habit and probably gave relatively little thought to the consequences of being found out. In this case, the clear breach of contract was pretty quickly rumbled, which could have led to a lawsuit, but it seems to have been settled amicably by the record labels, who agreed that both sets of recordings could be made commercially available.

It would take scores of blog posts to do justice to these great tracks, so I’ll just make a few comments now. First thing to mention is that the LPs forming the boxed set don’t just include the final versions as released, but usually a number of incomplete or discarded takes. At the session in question, recorded on February 19th 1947, there are 13 takes in all for just four tunes. It’s fascinating listening to these alternative versions (which are often, in my view, just as good if not better than the “final” version), not least because they demonstrate the wonderful spontaneity of Charlie Parker’s playing. They also have an experimental feel to them. The track I heard last night, Bird’s Nest, is, on one level, yet another bebop composition based on the chord changes of the George Gershwin standard “I got rhythm”, but what’s very special about it is just how free his improvisation is, both rhythmically and harmonically. It is, of course, well known that Charlie Parker’s nickname was “Bird” (originally Yardbird), and this track in particularly demonstrates that his playing really was very like birdsong – agile, quirky and above all intensely beautiful. The main difference is that most birdsong is actually atonal, which Bird’s music was not.

Another thing worth mentioning about this track is the identity of the piano player. When I heard it last night it triggered a vague memory that Errol Garner made some records with Charlie Parker. Was this one of them? I honestly couldn’t remember, but became increasingly convinced when I heard the piano solo. Later on, a quick search through my discography revealed that I was right. It is indeed a young Errol Garner. Although he doesn’t play badly, he doesn’t sound to me either comfortable or convincing playing bebop. Nevertheless, this session gives an important glimpse into the musical development of a major artist. You could say the same thing about the other tracks made around the same time by Bird and the young Miles Davis.

But that’s enough words. The whole point about music is that it says something that can’t be said with words. Birds manage perfectly well without them too.

Honey, Suck My Nose

Posted in Jazz with tags , on June 3, 2009 by telescoper

I got home this evening to find that the honeysuckle along one side of my garden had burst into flower and was filling the air with beautiful scents.  Unfortunately, it looks like our little heatwave is on the wane so I might not be able to sit outside in the balmy air enjoying the aromas for much longer. It’s nice they chose to open out today though; it was like a birthday present that arrived a day early.

I think Tennyson would have approved:

Come into the garden, Maud,
     For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
     I am here at the gate alone ;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
     And the musk of the rose is blown.

I already mentioned yesterday that I have beautiful roses in full bloom on the other side of the garden, so I just couldn’t resist posting a version of the Jazz standard Honeysuckle Rose. This one is by the great Errol Garner, who I posted about not long ago, and features one of his characteristically offbeat introductions followed by his usual delightful improvisation.

Spring is Here

Posted in Bute Park, Jazz with tags on March 17, 2009 by telescoper

All of a sudden it seems like Spring. We had a little foretaste a few weeks ago, but this was followed by a return into chilly miserable weather for a while. That even seemed to dampen the spirits of the blackbird that was waking me up and he’s left me alone for a while.

Now, though, it’s sunny and warm and the forecast is set fair until the weekend. My walk through Bute Park takes me past hosts of daffodils, appropriately enough for Wales. The trees are covered once more in green leaves. It’s just a pity there’s another week or so before the Easter holiday so I can’t spend more time outside or make use of the weather to get some necessary house repairs done, such as new window frames and repointing the chimney.

Still, I shouldn’t get too depressed. Spring has come early anyway. The clocks don’t go forward for another couple of weeks.

And if the weather wasn’t enough, my weekly veggie box arrived this morning with further evidence of springtime. After a steady supply of winter vegetables (such as swedes and parsnips), things have suddenly changed. The selection of seasonal vegetables I got today includes lettuce and tomatoes (for the first time in months), as well as Red Russian Kale and Cauliflower.

Oh, and the blackbird was back this morning too.

I haven’t put any music up for a while, so I hope you enjoy the following clip from Youtube which seems to fit the season. Errol Garner was a brilliant musician who invented a very distinctive style of Jazz piano entirely of his own. Many attempted to copy him, but nobody managed to get it quite right. He perfected a style of playing that involved using his left hand to keep a solid rhythm while his right hand usually played behind the beat created by his left. In other hands this lagging effect would probably have made the music drag, but in his it produced a wonderful sense of tension that he always somehow managed to resolve.

On slower numbers, such as most famous hit, Misty,
he tended to be elaborately decorative, something which I don’t like at all. But on the faster ones he could rattle along producing wonderful ad-libbed melodies like no other Jazz pianist, putting in little musical jokes here and there at the same time.

His other trademark was to play lengthy disguised out-of-tempo introductions that kept the audience guessing as to what tune was coming next and what speed it would be played at. I always thought his bass player and drummer were probably in the dark too, until he broke into tempo and played the melody, usually to spontaneous applause and broad grins all round. You can see that happening on this clip, around 2 minutes in, when at last he plays the theme of It Might as Well be Spring, a tune which was a big hit for Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto in the 1960s.

If you’re interested in hearing Errol Garner at his absolute best, you have to get the classic Concert By the Sea, recorded live in Carmel, California in 1955, which is a joy to listen to over and over again. But in the meantime, here is in 1964.