The Century 21 Exposition, better remembered as the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, left an indelible mark on the skyline of that city: the iconic Space Needle was created for the event, along with the Seattle Center and its elevated monorail.
There were also major musical performances: a whole mess of them, by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (conducted in one concert by Igor Stravinsky); by folksingers like Theodore Bikel and Josh White; and by jazz artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Nat King Cole. Also among that last cohort was pianist Erroll Garner, a star attraction at the height of his powers.
Garner’s performance would yield One World Concert, his first live album since the world-beating Concert By the Sea. (On the cover of One World Concert, a subhead declares: Recorded in Actual Performance at Seattle World’s Fair.) This was the third release on Octave Records, which Garner had established with his manager, Martha Glaser. Originally distributed by Philips, it has never had a fully dedicated reissue.
That’s about to change, thanks to the Octave Remastered Series. A joint initiative of Mack Avenue Records and the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, it’s a batch of reissues spanning Garner’s total output on Octave: 12 albums from the 1960s and ‘70s. The first four — along with One World Concert, they include Dreamstreet, Closeup in Swing and A New Kind of Love — land on Sept. 27.
Here is a track from the refurbished One World Concert: “Movin’ Blues,” whose title tells you almost everything you need to know.
Note that I said “almost.” It must be said that Garner is working alongside his usual terrific rhythm team, bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin. Listen for how he shifts from his rumbling introduction to the song’s main theme, which includes an answering chime voiced like a train whistle. (A nod to Duke Ellington’s locomotive onomatopoeia, perhaps.)
Then there’s the improved sound quality, which is really this series’ raison d’être. Like The Complete Concert By the Sea, released in 2015, and Nightconcert, which arrived last year (and for which I wrote liner notes), the albums in the Octave Remastered Series were transferred and restored using the Plangent Processes Playback System. This method removes wow and flutter effects in analog tape transfers, which is a more technical way of saying it dramatically cleans up the sound.
Each album in the Octave Remastered Series will also feature one previously unissued track, the majority being new Garner originals. “It’s truly shocking, and one of the greatest joys of this work, to find these fully realized tunes just sitting there on tape,” says Peter Lockhart, who with Rosenthal has produced the reissue series, in a press release. The bonus find on One World Concert is a trio version of “Other Voices,” the balladic title track from a 1957 orchestral album.
Following the Sept. 27 batch release, the Octave Remastered Series will issue one album each month leading up to the start of Garner’s centennial year, next June. These next six albums are: A Night at the Movies, Campus Concert, That’s My Kick, Up in Erroll’s Room, Feeling is Believing, Gemini, Magician, and Gershwin & Kern.
In addition to this rollout, the Octave Remastered Series plans to release a limited podcast, with an episode devoted to each album. Titled Erroll Garner — Uncovered, and produced by our own Alex Ariff, it will be hosted by noted jazz scholar Robin D.G. Kelley. (The One World Concert episode will feature a conversation with pianist Jason Moran.) More information about the podcast is forthcoming.
For more information about Erroll Garner or Octave Music, visit errollgarner.com.