JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of a remastered 1961 recording by Erroll Garner, “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” taken from the album Closeup in Swing, which will be reissued in an expanded version, along with three other Garner titles, on September 27 via Mack Avenue Music Group and Octave Music. This release will mark the start of the Octave Remastered Series, a year-long, 12-album project featuring newly restored and expanded editions of various Garner releases from the 1960s and 1970s. Each album contains a newly discovered, unreleased bonus track.
Originally recorded in the summer of 1961 at RCA Studios in New York City, “The Best Things in Life Are Free” features Garner in a classic piano-trio setting with bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin. Calhoun was also the bassist on 2015’s Grammy-nominated The Complete Concert by the Sea, an expanded version of Garner’s 1955 hit live album Concert by the Sea that was the first release from the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, a collective formed to curate Garner’s monumental archive. In subsequent years the Garner Project has issued the acclaimed Ready Take One (2016), an album of unreleased studio takes, and the outstanding 1964 live recording Nightconcert (2018).
In addition to Closeup in Swing, the first round of releases in the Octave Remastered Series will be Dreamstreet (recorded in 1959, first released in 1961, featuring the Garner original “By Chance” as a bonus track), One World Concert (a live trio album originally released in 1962, featuring the Garner ballad “Other Voices” as a bonus track), and A New Kind of Love (Garner’s only film score, featuring a 35-piece orchestra conducted by Leith Stevens). The previously unheard Garner tune “Octave 103” is the bonus track on Closeup in Swing.
Every month until Garner’s centennial in June 2020, another album in the Octave Remastered Series will be released. Like the first four, the remaining eight—A Night at the Movies, Campus Concert, That’s My Kick, Up in Erroll’s Room, Feeling is Believing, Gemini, Magician, and Gershwin & Kern—all originally appeared on Octave Records, the label that Garner founded with his manager Martha Glaser following his departure from Columbia Records. (Garner’s tenure at Columbia ended after he sued the label in 1959 to block the sale of an album that they had released without his permission. His victory in that case was the first of its kind for any American artist in the music industry.)
Among the other bonus tracks in the new series (all of which are Garner originals) is a previously unreleased studio performance of “Misty”—ranked by ASCAP as the 12th most popular song of the 20th century—which will appear on Gemini.
Starting Friday, August 30, the first four releases in the Octave Remastered Series will be available for preorder. Links are below.