Erroll Garner

Erroll Garner Jazz Project

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.

The immense popularity of pianist Erroll Garner was certified in 2015 with the issuing of The Complete Concert By The Sea — 60 years after Garner made the original 1955 recording. It was the best-selling jazz album of its era! So one can imagine the excitement of new, previously unheard material, this time taken from a 1964 midnight concert at The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Nico Van Der Stam

Quick, hum a few bars of an original composition by Erroll Garner — other than “Misty.”

Serious Garner-philes surely know the impish “Afternoon of an Elf,” the bittersweet ballads “Solitaire” and “Gaslight,” and a few others. But I’d wager that most jazz fans would draw a blank. The pianist’s populist versions of standards got most of the bandwidth, and the overwhelming fame of “Misty” dominated whatever attention was left for his originals. Even those aware of Garner’s healthy catalog would likely be stunned to learn just how prolific he was as a composer.

Rob Davidson

“Erroll Garner had so much spirit when he played, so much joy, so much groove,” Michael Wolff recently told Michael Bourne. “That’s why I think he was such a successful pianist. No matter what he did — and he played really, for his day, very sophisticated outside harmonies — but everything he played swung.”

Wolff was at our Yamaha Salon Concert on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday. He played both in a solo stride vein and with a swinging trio, and both performances were filmed.

Rob Davidson

Erroll Garner, the irrepressibly ebullient pianist, left an influence that runs deep but often diffuse: it isn't often that you hear someone who sounds just like him, but there's an awful lot of him in the language. Consider an exchange at our recent Yamaha Salon Concert between Kenny Werner and Andy Milne — a pair of super-literate, restlessly imaginative pianists, a generation apart. Their performance conjured Garner in spirit, without resorting to imitative devices, and set a high bar for responsive duologue.

Last Thursday, on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday, WBGO held a Yamaha Salon Concert in midtown Manhattan, with a handful of superb pianists paying their respects. Among them was Christian Sands, who offered a solo medley with crystalline touch and bounding stride rhythm.

Then, following a brief exchange with Michael Bourne, he played a buoyant "Night and Day" with the evening's house rhythm team, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard.