JJ 02/74: Erroll Garner – Gemini

Fifty years ago Sinclair Traill recommended another top example of Garner's inventiveness, drollery and swing. First published in Jazz Journal February 1974


Any new Garner recording is an event, for he makes far too few these days, and that shouldn’t be. However one can but applaud his high level of consistency and his own particular satisfying recipe for good, swinging piano jazz. His style is, for want of a better word, orchestral. His intros and coda show a wealth of imagination and he sometimes manages to sound like a man with ten fingers to each hand. His style was always original, with his unique method of phrasing behind the beat, and if his playing has become rather more bombastic with the passing years, his hallmarks do not dull, neither does his swing diminish.

The best track is probably Tea For Two, where he shifts the accents most unexpectedly and builds up to a catchy riff played on the harpsichord. But Foolish Things runs it pretty close. Played at easy bounce tempo, it is all so good natured, so easy going; like the ‘little man’ himself. His own two compositions both have that Afro-Latin flavour of which he is so fond. Gemini he gives a romping, stomping treatment, but Eldorado he plays in more delicate fashion. How High The Moon is full of furious inventions, and from the fifth chorus onwards really goes a’sailing away up there. Something, sans coda, is Garner at his most provocative, for he just gets into top gear when he slams on the brakes without warning. Gypsy, an unlikely jazz vehicle, gets some melodious tinkling on the harpsi­chord, but comes out as basic Garner in the end.

Most of his albums contain a high level of excitement and are always filled with drollery, and sometimes some startling inventiveness – this is one of the best. The excellent rhythm team, do all that is asked of them; what else?

How High The Moon; It Could Happen To You; Gemini; When Gypsy Makes His Violin Cry (19 min) – Tea For Two; Something; Eldorado; These Foolish Things (19½ min)
Erroll Garner (pno/harpsi); Jose Mangual (conga); Jlmmie Smith (perc); Ernest Mccarty (bs).
(London SH 8461 £2.15)