Recent listening, current

Saturday, March 15, 2014

190. Erroll Garner / Jazz 'Round Midnight (1991)

Compilations from Jazz 'Round Midnight are usually good, and while this one is no exception, it tends to be monopolized by downtempo ballads. Across 16 tracks, listeners hear Garner's solo and trio recordings from the mid '40s and '50s. You get the basic idea -- contrasts of soft with loud, twinkling arpeggios from the right hand, chord tracing from the left. But the towering crescendos and dizzying excitement that so frequently come up when people talk about Garner seem missing. Things heat up a little in "I've Got The World On A String" and especially "Part Time Blues". Garner's punchy rhythmic accents and huge, bluesy blocks remind me of why I love the piano of Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson. While I appreciate them for the variety, I want more. None of this, however, should detract from the stately beauty of "I Can't Get Started" or "Misty." As Garner is one of those pianists who has been anthologized and repackaged a thousand times, this installment could be worth passing over. But in a lot of other ways it's a good one for the car, for after a hard day, or for audiences that are unlikely to gripe about the track sequence as I have. I almost forgot to mention the last track, a 10:42 solo take of "Over the Rainbow." It leaves me spellbound and feeling guilty for taking issue with any of the above.

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