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Monday, December 9, 2013

Boatswain Erroll. By John von Daler

                   I am thinking that his playing reminds me of an ancient galley. You have all the slaves below deck rowing vigorously and rhythmically - that is his left hand - and the warriors waiting to show off their individual prowess up on deck - that would be his right hand. The two halves of Erroll #Garner, warlike though they are not, could still be compared in a certain sense to that ancient vessel with its strict priorities and division of labor.

                I read somewhere that Mr. Garner as a young man got work playing the piano alone in places where people wanted to dance. Without a bassist or a drummer he had to keep the rhythm going somehow, and this he did by learning to drive his left side in a vigorous, swinging pulse, while his right side could freely play solos as it hopped on and off the beat. Alone, he sounded like two different people playing together.
                If you ever start listening closely to his playing you will probably be fascinated by the separation, the split personality of his musical halves. I have never gotten over the first recordings I heard by him when I was ten years old (the best of which was Concert by the Sea). How could one person manage to be in two or three distinctly different musical places at the same time? He manages to churn out the rhythm, play quotations from classical music, run up and down some wonderful riffs and bring it all home again without losing the beat or the groove.

                I think Errol Garner must be one of the most underrated of the well-known jazz pianists. Let him sail awhile in your waters. You'll see - and try rubbing your head in circles with one hand and patting your belly with the other while you listen!

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