Arv Garrison: Wizard Of The Six String 

Three-CD set collects the work of the under-sung bop guitarist, requested by Charlie Parker and notable for his often blazing solos


Ask a jazz enthusiast about electric-guitar masters of the 1940s and they will likely mention Charlie Christian, Les Paul, Barney Kessel and maybe Irving Ashby. Arv Garrison? Less likely. And yet he was one of the most accomplished and inventive all-round musicians of the period on the instrument. Listen to any of the tracks on these three CDs for proof.

There is perhaps no better example than CD1 here where he is featured in support and occasionally soloing on eight Dial tracks by the Charlie Parker septet. Ornithology, Yardbird Suite and A Night In Tunisia are prominent, along with four alternate takes. Parker met Garrison at a small LA Club in 1946 and they played together before Bird requested the guitarist for this record date. You can also hear him blowing up a guitar storm on a 1946 Howard McGhee sextet date in Hollywood: six sterling bop tracks feature Garrison alongside Howard, Teddy Edwards, Dodo Marmarosa, and drummer Roy Porter.

Other highlights on CD2 include two tracks featuring Barney Kessel, Irving Ashby, Les Paul and Arv in a guitar quartet from an Armed Forces Jubilee Show broadcast in October 1946. They stretch to a five-guitar choir on Five Guitars In Flight with backing by a stratospheric trumpet outing by Al Killian and the Earl Spencer Orchestra of the time.

However, mostly in this set you hear the billowing sounds of Arv Garrison’s guitar in the Vivien Garry Trio where he spent most of his musical life. Vivien was the bass-player leader, and the piano duties were shared by Wini Beatty and later El Myers, who also functioned as vocalist. Garrison and Garry were married, and the story goes that she persuaded him to teach her to play bass so that they could form the trio and play together. It worked well and for a brief moment the trio, with Arv’s strikingly effective, often blazing guitar solos, became famous.

There are also four tracks on CD2 where Garrison backs vocalist Rickey Jordan and provides some attractive blues lines behind the singer. ABC Blues, Blues In The Storm and Rickey’s Blues are all standouts and prove that Arv was most comfortable, not to mention inventive, in that format. The Blues In B Flat track features the never to be forgotten Babs Gonzalez and his Three Bips And A Bop lineup – bop scat unbridled.

The reason for the comparatively short life of the Garry trio was Arv’s epilepsy which caused him to have blackouts. It gradually began to happen more and more onstage. Vivien found it all too much and left to look after her ailing father in California. Arv Garrison headed back to his hometown, Toledo, and died 30 July 1960 after he had gone swimming in a quarry. This three-record set reminds us just how good a bop guitar player he was.

(James A. Harrod’s October 2021 Jazz Journal feature on Garrison includes a lot more information on the guitarist.)

CD1: (1) Altitude; Relax Jack; Hopscotch; Where You At; I Surrender Dear; I’ve Got To, That’s All; Tonsillectomy; These Foolish Things; Diggin’ Diz; Where You At; Moose The Mooche; Yardbird Suite; Yardbird Suite; Ornithology; Ornithology; Ornithology; A Night In Tunisia; A Night In Tunisia; Mop, Mop; How Deep Is The Ocean; It Only Happens Once; It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That (62.47)
CD2: (2) Where You At; Baby, I’m Gone; How High The Moon; Rip Van Winkle; Jingle Bells, Snake Pit; Tight And Gay; Sonny Boy; Cherokee; I Got Rhythm; How High The Moon; Honeysuckle Rose; Dilated Pupils; Dilated Pupils; Midnight At Minton’s; Up In dodo’s Room; Up In Dodo’s Room; High Wind In Hollywood; Five Guitars In Flight; A. B. C .Blues; Blues In The Storm; Rickey’s Blues; Night And Day; Stormy Weather; Drop Dead (66.59)
CD3: (3) Mop; Just You Just Me; Lover Man; The Three Bears; Indiana; Jingle Bells; Blues In B Flat; Introduction To Flying Home; Flying Home; You Can Do It If You Try; Spring Is Saying Hallo; Right Me If I’m Wrong; New Love; Baby, I’m Gone; Walk It Off (61.07)

(1) Vivien Garry Trio with Garrison, Dizzy Gillespie Jazzmen; Charlie Parker Septet; Armed Forces Radio Service. Track 1: NYC, June 1945. The rest: Hollywood, February-May 1946.
(2) Vivien Garry Trio, Vic Dickinson Quintet, Howard McGhee Sextet, Armed Forces Radio Service; Rickey Jordan (v) with Vivien Garry Trio. Hollywood, May-October 1946.
(3) Vivien Garry Trio, Arv Garrison Trio, Art Ford’s Saturday Night Swing Session. Hollywood, November 1946 & private recordings from 1948, no exact dates listed.
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 1104