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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Most Happy Piano

American Jazz Classics 99021



1. Rose Room
2. But Not for Me
3. My Silent Love
4. Full Moon and Empty Arms
5. Some of these Days
6. Time on my Hands
7. Girl of my Dreams
8. Alexander's Ragtime Band
9. If It's the Last Thing I Do
10. After I Say I'm Sorry
11. I Got It Bad (And that Ain't Good)
12. Ol' Man River
13. Them There Eyes
14. The Man I Love

1. Moonglow
2. All God's Chillun Got Rhythm
3. Crème de Menthe
4. Humoresque
5. My Lonely Heart
6. Mambo 207
7. The Way Back Blues
8. Passin' Through
9. Once in a While
10. Dancing Tambourine
11. Sophisticated Lady
12. Robbin's Nest
13. How High the Moon
14. Fancy
15. Groovy Day

Erroll Garner - Piano
Al Hall - Bass (CD1; CD2, tracks 1-8)
Specs Powell - Drums (CD1; CD2, tracks 1-8)
Wyatt Ruther - Bass (CD2, tracks 9-10, 15)
Fats Heard - Drums (CD2, tracks 9-10, 15)
John Simmons - Bass (CD2, tracks 11-14)
Shadow Wilson - Drums (CD2, tracks 11-14)


Subtitled "The 1956 Studio Sessions", this double CD unites all the trio recordings originally released on four LPs entitled respectively The Most Happy Piano, The One and Only Erroll Garner, He's Here! Here's Gone! He's Garner!, and Encores in Hi-Fi. A couple of the tracks were recorded in 1956 but not included on those LPs. The last seven tracks were included on those albums although they were actually recorded earlier: between 1950 and 1953.

All this may sound complicated, but it adds up to a cornucopia of performances by one of jazz's great individualists. The untaught Erroll Garner had an entirely personal style which has been much copied but never bettered. By 1956, most of the Garner trademarks were in place: the bouncy left hand; the right hand lagging slightly behind the beat; the flowery decorations; and the build-up at the end of nearly every chorus. In such tracks as My Silent Love, there are even hints of his habit of prefacing tunes with mystifying introductions, which was to become more of a feature in many later performances.

So Erroll Garner had his mannerisms but he could still surprise us. For instance, in But Not For Me, his two hands are even more out of sync than usual, producing a seesawing effect. And what are those strange chords that he introduces into Moonglow? Humoresque displays his drollery, while many ballads (e.g. My Silent Love, Crème de Menthe) illustrate his poetic treatment of slow numbers, with lots of tremolos and generous use of the sustaining pedal to get the most emotion out of the piano.

Ol' Man River has the same drive as many of the performances on Garner's renowned Concert by the Sea album. Erroll even sneaks in an impudent quotation from Cocktails for Two! And The Man I Love surprises by beginning as an ornate ballad but then doubling the tempo to create an eight-minute romp.

The transfers to compact disc are well engineered, and an informative 20-page booklet is included. Garner fans will need no encouragement to buy this generous album but, if you haven't yet sampled Erroll, this is a marvellous place to start. The album title is well-chosen, as Garner was one of the happiest pianists in jazz - and he conveyed this happiness to his audiences.

Tony Augarde

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