Erroll Garner In Performance
Black & White
Erroll Garner, world-renowned pianist-composer, is caught in rare performances, circa 1964, available on home video for the first time in North America. This video embodies some of Garner's joy and one-of-a-kind improvised performances, filmed in London by the BBC, during the peak of Garner's creativity and popularity.
Garner was an original, an innovator, much imitated and a major influence on scores of pianists, to the present day. Garner is featured with his able accompanists -- Kelly Martin, percussionist, and Eddie Calhoun, bassist -- in a variety of modes -- on some standards and his own compositions -- in ballads, up-tempo numbers, a mambo -- and does he ever swing!
Garner was a piano prodigy, self-taught, playing by ear. He began at the age of 3, playing in his hometown Pittsburgh -- in clubs, theaters, on riverboats. In the early 40's, he made his way to New York and became a major name on the famed 52nd Street. In 1950, he made his solo concert debut in Detroit to a SRO audience and standing ovations. From then on, he performed worldwide in concerts, in major nightclubs, on TV and radio, and of course on recordings.
Renowned as a composer, Garner has more than 200 compositions and several songbooks in print. His Misty was named by ASCAP as one of the 25 most performed standards of the 20th Century.
The immediacy of this video and the totally contemporary feel of Garner as he extemporizes, his humor and surprise, are all elements of this master pianist in the act of creation. The visual and audio aspects of these videos are au natural, audio verité, and visual fidelity, including Garner's inspirational perspiration as he exhorts his sidemen. Special note should be made of the excellent keyboard shots that give pianists and fans a close-up of Garner's hand positions. Garner's wonderfully imaginative introductions -- which are compositions unto themselves -- his wit, and surprise endings (as on Sonny Boy) are an esthetic jolt. His ability to sustain and juggle so many creative elements and continue the flow of ideas and performance, ad lib, is awesome.
And he works up a burnished head of steam on the up-tempo numbers herein, including the closer, The Lady is a Tramp. When he finished this selection, the announcer, Steve Race of the BBC, asked garner whether he would play anything else. Garner, who was not given to curtain speeches, said, "That's all." Mr. Race then announced that Garner would play That's All (another writer's song). Actually, Garner then went into Erroll's Theme (which he also did at the end of the first program). He would usually be found noodling out with his theme after a rousing finish. Anyhow, this solves the mystery of the announcer's call of That's All.
Audiences are fortunate to have this video, part of Garner's legacy of creative works, brought forth by Kultur Video.
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