Now that I’m home from touring, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of the things that inspire me and have influenced me over the years. I’ll discuss books, people, places, and of course MUSIC. Since today is #MusicMonday on twitter, I thought I would write about one of my favorite performers of all time –
I’m sure when I was a young girl growing up in Oklahoma that I heard Erroll Garner many times. My father had many of his records as a leader and a sideman (hello Charlie Parker!), but I don’t remember hearing him until my 14th birthday when my friend Aaron, who played french horn in the Oklahoma Youth Symphony where I played trumpet, gave me a copy of Erroll Garner’s “The Original Misty” album. No one EVER gave me music for a present except my family because most of my friends at that time were not Jazz fans enough to know what to buy me. So I was very surprised by his gift and I remember putting it in the CD player right away to check it out. The album starts out with “Misty” (Erroll Garner’s composition) and it’s beautiful, but the second and third songs are what really got me: “Rosalie” and “I’ve Got the World on a String”. I had never heard so much swinging coming from one pianist and I had never heard such creative introductions and arrangements. I was totally blown away.
That summer when we went to Chicago on our way to Birch Creek Music Academy we visited the Jazz Record Mart, as we always do, and I cleaned out the Erroll Garner section. I bought “Penthouse Serenade”, “Encores!”, “Concert by the Sea” (arguably his most famous and best selling album) among others. Other Jazz fans in Oklahoma even began giving me his records. I amassed quite a collection.
At the time I was really into emulating Red Garland, Sonny Clark, and Bud Powell and it wasn’t until I went to college that I would start attempting to emulate Erroll. My senior year at SUNY-Purchase I took a class with Jon Faddis as the professor, and in the class we learned, memorized, and performed transcriptions. The first transcription I did for that class was Erroll Garner’s “Exactly Like You” performance from “The Original Misty” album. It was very difficult since I was just starting to copy his left hand playing on all four beats, and I spent many hours working on it that week so I could play it well in class. When I performed it for the class, I remember Jon asked the other students who the solo was by – and no one knew. When pressed someone replied, “Earl Hines?” (No one sounds like Erroll Garner, and no one sounds like Earl Hines, for that matter. At least they knew it started with the letter E?)
Erroll Garner has largely been forgotten by (contemporary) Jazz musicians and completely ignored by Jazz academia (from my experience), but he is still loved and remembered by his fans. Case in point, my friend Atticus Brady just released a documentary about the life and music of Erroll Garner titled “No One Can Hear You Read.” I was really happy to receive a screening copy last year, and it was INCREDIBLE. I’m so happy to know something about the man, and not only his music. There is a Facebook page for the movie here, you can watch the trailer here, and even buy a copy here.
I’m so glad someone is out there spreading the word about this incredible artist. If you’ve never heard Erroll Garner, listen! You will love him! He will make your day better and more swinging!
(PS – I wrote about my love for Erroll Garner and all things “block chords” in Downbeat magazine in 2011: see the picture of the article here)