DVD: Erroll Garner

Erroll Garner, No One Can Hear You Read (First Run Features)

Garner DVDThis compact, well-made documentary leaves the viewer a puzzle: only 36 years after his death, how can memories of a stunningly original, universally admired pianist have grown so dim? Many, perhaps most, young listeners don’t know about Garner. The film’s abundant performance clips provide reasons that he should be an icon —his spontaneity, his irresistible swing, the witty deceptiveness of his introductions; the joy he took in playing, which was equal to the joy he gave. Ahmad Jamal, Woody Allen, Dick Hyman, George Avakian and Garner’s sister Ruth are among those who illuminate his life and career, but it’s Garner and his music that light up the screen.

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  1. says

    Erroll Garner, the most spontaneous, the happiest – and the most badly copied – of them all:


    In a radio portrait, I heard an anecdote about how big Erroll’s musical ears were (quoted from memory): ‘While rhapsodizing one of his elegiac intros one guy in the audience smashed a glass of wine. As Erroll heard the sound he imitated it perfectly in the descant of the piano, as if it would have been part of that intro all along. Everyone was smitten with amazement.’

    He swung like no one else. Left and right hand completely independently. One of my all-time favorite recordings is his amazing version of Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight” from 1955, the very year where his star eventually began to rise forever.

    But even without Concert By The Sea, his most famous album, he would be remembered for his wonderful recordings with the cleanest and happiest Bird, freshly out of “Camarillo”, and the other contributions he made as a young pianist for Dial Records in 1947, tracks like the above “Pastel”: Impressionistic piano jazz at its best, in my opinion a must-listen-to for all young pianists.