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Erroll Garner (1921 - 1977)


Erroll Garner is one of the most distinctive pianists of the jazz genre. Other than Thelonious Monk, no one is more identifiable or harder to imitate. A self-taught virtuoso, Garner devised a solo style that eliminated rhythm accompaniment. His hands worked totally independent of each other. With block chords he set the rhythmic tempo in his left hand, and with his right, he embellished on the tune, taking liberties with melody and time, often lagging behind the beat. Some jazz purists dismissed him because he maintained his style throughout his career and enjoyed popularity unknown to most jazz artists. But Garner’s interpretive abilities and technical superiority cannot be denied.

He made frequent TV appearances, toured five continents, fronted major symphony orchestras, and composed film scores. His compositions were for jazz piano, but in 1962, when Johnny Burke added lyrics to “Misty,” Garner’s 1954 tune soared in popularity and entered the jazz standard repertoire.

Garner began his professional career at seven, playing with the Candy Kids, and at 16 he joined the Leroy Brown band. In 1944-45 he played in a trio with bassist Slam Stewart and guitarist Tiny Grimes before setting off on his solo career.

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