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Erroll Garner: Contrasts

Here’s some great ear candy for fans of Erroll Garner, or anyone else who enjoys pianistic virtuosity. Recorded in 1954, the highlight of the recording, which is housed in its original Mercury-EmArcy cover art, is Garner’s first recording of his biggest hit, “Misty,” free from pops, scratches, and other ravages of time. And since Johnny Mathis made the romantic tune popular, Garner played it nightly for the rest of his performing life-about 1,000 times a year, he estimated.

The opener, “You Are My Sunshine,” is stamped with that full, rich sound that is Garner’s everlasting calling card. Joining him on the trio date were longtime pals Wyatt Ruther on drums and “Fats” Heard on bass. The contrasts the title refers to are Garner the swinger and Garner the balladeer, the later coming home on “Don’t Worry About Me” in spectacular fashion. Garner’s reading of “Sweet and Lovely” is also a kick with its Latin touch, and you can tell he was having fun with his treatment of the Rogers and Hart standard, “There’s a Small Hotel.”

It’s great that CDs were invented and that the stuff we grew up with and loved is available again, sounding like it was recorded yesterday. These Verve “master editions” will include many of the label’s classic recordings from the ’50s and ’60s with the best sound quality possible, which, for any jazz fan, is good news.

Originally Published