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Friday, March 18, 2022

Soliloquy - Erroll Garner



Erroll Garner
Photo: Bob Henriques
Columbia Records CL 1060

From the back cover: When Erroll came in to play this session on the evening of February 6, 1957 at Columbia's 30th Street studios in New York City, he was subdued, relaxed, and went into the control room to "loosen up" the engineers, kidding around with his usual warm, friendly touch. He then noodled the piano briefly, suddenly looked up, and said "Ready? Any time."

Three hours later, Erroll had recorded 16 perfect sides (one take for each), ranging in length from 4 to 8 1/2 minutes, with time out for a fast coffee break, and moments here and there snatched by the engineers to reload the tape machine to keep abreast of Garner's steady output. Incidentally, for the first hour, the handful of us in the control were slightly worried; Garner wasn't perspiring as is he won't when he plays. But, we're happy to report, he was throughly soaked when he finished.

We point this out because Erroll is one of most physical pianists extant, as well as one of the most soulful. Indeed, it is this combination of impassioned histrionics plus lyricism, in his music, which makes him the most colorful piano soloist in contemporary jazz, both in person and on records. Garner pours everything into each and every performance; we don't think he's ever learned to "coast" at the keyboard. And Erroll's projection, according to Harold Chapman of Columbia's engineering department, who has recorded the elfin pianist for eight years, is as near perfect as he's ever recorded.

Garner's fantastic time is nowhere better shown than in this album. One of the real tests of a jazz pianist is his ability to swing without a rhythm section. And Garner swings – both up tempo, and in the more strenuous languid tempos.

Included in the selections recorded in this album are four standards and two originals which Garner composed on the spot. Of the originals, Soliloquy and No More Time, Garner says he had them tucked away in a special filing department in his head, where he stores his own themes until he has a chance to tape them. The pacing, warmth, and variety of these selections make for repeated listening. The collection was titled "Soliloquy" because Garner obviously has a private conversation going on all the time with his piano, be it in the absence or presence of others. The beauty of Garner's "talks" is that they have a message for everyone who listens. This particular album, we feel, has strong appeal for all piano lovers – in all of the so-called classifications in the recording market – pop, jazz, mood or Masterworks.

At the age of 35, Garner is that rare phenomenon among stylized, original artists: he's still expanding musically, within his own style structure, without losing any of his identity, freshness, or elan, or without forfeiting any  of his authenticity. The completely indentifiable and consistently impactful piano voice of Erroll Garner continues to be one of the artistic triumphs of this chaotic time, in which the creative endurance of many artists has been overtaxed and seriously deflected. Garner – and we knock on wood – seems to be the hardiest and heartiest perennial of his generation.

In flavor, Garner seems to be a blend of several generations. He combines the lusty "roots of jazz" feeling, with the contemporary "something else" which marks the extension of jazz to this day. Garner is that rare hybrid in the arts – virtuoso, stylist, universally appealing performer, and smash box office. His stature has grown steadily and unshakably during the past fifteen years. In a recent period where jazz as a sociological phenomenon is dwindling, and where jazz giants have become obscured, Garner continues to emerge as a fresh quality, perhaps one of the last titanic progenies of jazz, in its basic and historic meaning.

Garner certainly is one of the lustiest voices on the contemporary jazz scene. Aiming to give pleasure and to "relax" his listeners, Garner plays artistically yet with abandon and taste, giving his listener enough of a bridge to stay with him. Garner has a tight rapport with his audience.

Erroll easily could relax and rest on his neat stack of laurels gathered in 1957, alone. In that year, his Columbia, "Concert" by the Sea," topped the list of best-selling jazz albums in the United States. It also won honors in Brazil and England. Another of his albums won a Grand Prix de Disque in France. He won the Downbeat Readers and Critics Polls, and the Playboy Magazine Readers Poll. In Europe, during his concert tour, late in 1957, Garner received five other international prizes.

1957 also marked the year of Garner's debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, in a program featuring his own orchestrations and compositions, with Mitch Miller conducting. (The entire group with orchestra was recorded by Garner and Mitch on Columbia in CL 1014, "Other Voices.") Encouraged by the growing demand for his own compositions (Dreamy Misty, Solitaire, Passing Through, Way Back Blues, Other Voices), Garner also began work on a ballet score in 1957. The youthful multiple talent began to stretch his creative wings in many fields – concerts, with trio, with orchestra, on television, and as composer. The two originals in this album are a small part of the body of compositions he has written, although he only recently has begun to give any serious time to  this phase of his talent. We have the impression that he's cooking a show score in the near future. During 1957, Garner grew in popularity and sales ("Other Voices" and "The Most Happy Piano" also hit the best-selling album charts.) His concert and night club audiences multiplied, internationally. Garner's acceptance by all strata of listeners continued to develop. He no longer belongs exclusively to jazz enthusiasts, but is part of the more generic world. – Martha Glaser & George Avakian

You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
No More Time
I Surrender, Dear
If I Had You
Don't Take Your Love From Me

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