Monday, July 19, 2010

Erroll Garner - Concert By The Sea: a million seller

Erroll Garner - Concert By The Sea: a million seller ( English) - Een gouweouwe: Erroll Garner - Concert By The Sea ( Nederlands)

It's worse then Louis Armstrong
Hans Koert

One of the first million sellers in jazz was Erroll Garner's album Concert By The Sea. In fact this very first "live" recording by Erroll Garner, recorded in Actual Perfomance at Carmel, California, was a bad sounded release with a piano that was slightly out of tune, but the music was really great. (Dutch) cover of Erroll Garner's Concert By The Sea LP (1969) (CBS S 62310)
Erroll Garner, born in 1921 and passed away in 1977, was a legend and a genius at the piano. As a child he played all tunes by ear at the piano, both handed, with a perfect pitch and fully self-taught. He couldn't read music ............ and never learned it!!
Erroll Garner ( 1921-1977)
He started to play in 1944 at Fifty-Second street with musicians like
Slam Stewart; made his first recordings accompanying vocalist Inez Cavanaugh and played with Charlie Parker. His popularity grew in the 1950s when he recorded his composition Misty. In September 1955 the entertainment division of the US army asked Erroll to give a concert for retired soldiers who had fought in the Korean-war and were based in the army base near Carmel, a small city along the Pacific coast near San Francisco.
Cover of Erroll Garner's Concert By The Sea (CD) (1969) (CBS 451042)
The concert was scheduled on the 19th of September, 1955 in the Sunset Auditorium, a former church building. As some of the soldiers were too injured to join the concert, the organization had asked Martha Glazer, Erroll's producer, if they were allowed to record the concert to play it for the soldiers later who were in the camp hospital. They agreed, but insisted that the tapes would become their exclusive property after the concert. Erroll Garner's Trio contained Erroll at the piano, Eddie Calhoun on the bass and Denzil Best on drums.
Erroll Garner and Eddie Calhoun

Eddie Calhoun ( 1921 - 1993 ) was a bass player, raised in Chicago, who had played with musicians like Ahmad Jamal, Miles Davis and Johnny Griffin and just had joined the Erroll Garner Trio. He would stay in Erroll's trio up to the mid 1960, before he founded his own nightclub Cal's Place in Chicago. He passed away in 1993. It must have been very difficult now and then for Eddie Calhoun to follow Erroll Garner in concert. His notorious intros are unpredictable .... I love to share with you one of my favourite Erroll Garner fragments on film from the 1960s where he plays Honeysuckle Rose. Erroll opens with one of his typically intros at the piano, with a lot of notes, without any indications what tune will be played ........ watch Eddie Calhoun at the left, desperate waiting for the start of the theme......

Denzel Best, whose full name was Denzil Da Costa Best or Denzil DaCosta Best, born in 1917 and passed away in 1965, was an important bebo

p drummer. He started his career on trumpet and piano, but changed to drums later. He played with Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and toured to Sweden in the late 1940s with Chubby Jackson. He performed with George Shearing and Artie Shaw before he joined Erroll Garner's Trio for two years. Later he worked with Tyree Glenn. Denzil is known for his excellent subtle, pulsing rhythms with the brushes.

The Erroll Garner Trio seen on the back ( f.l.t.r.: Denzil Da Costa Best - Eddie Calhoun - Erroll Garner ( film shot))
Erroll Garner played ca. 15 tunes during the concert of which eleven were used for a recording. Tunes like I Cover The Waterfront, Bernie's Tune, Laura and The Nearness of You were rejected. When Erroll and Martha received the master tape they learned two things: It had been an excellent concert - Erroll was on his best but the sound quality was bad. The sound is murky. The balance was wrong, which mend that Erroll's piano and vocalizing ( the moans and grunts) were very well recorded on tape, but it failed to record the rhythm section. They decided to bring the audio tape ( made at low speed with a simple tape recorder with one microphone) to George Awakian, producer for Columbia. Two weeks later he had restored the sound quality up to a moderate quality which was good enough to release it on an album. The LP Concert By The Sea would become a million sellers album within a few months. Listen to one of the tracks on the album entitled It's All Right With Me.

Rita Reys sings for Erroll Garner at the jam in De L'Europe ( f.l.t.r.: Pim Jacobs ( at the piano) - nn - Rita Reys - Erroll Garner - Lou Van Rees ( a Dutch producer) ( photo courtesy: Aram Avakian - Dutch Jazz Archive)
Early 1958 Erroll Garner made his debut in The Netherlands. He performed at a packed Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on the 4th of January, 1958 in a concert with his trio ( Kelly Martin had replaced Denzil Da Costa Best). Holland enjoyed Erroll's concert, which was fully sold out and, except a small, not so successful recital at the carillon of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, the jazz scene remembers a small jam session with Pim Jacobs and Rita Reys at the end of the cocktail party in De L' Europe in Amsterdam. Herman Openneer published about Erroll's debut in Holland in the Jazz Bulletin of the Dutch Jazz Archive (1997).
Concert By The Sea became a hit. On the 27th of November 1957, just before his European tour, Erroll was one of the guests at the Patti Page's musical variety television program The Big Record. He starts with Where or When and in Tea for Two ( better retitled as Tea For Three) in a kind of piano battle featuring Erroll and two obscure pianists - Billy Masterdale and Ralph Fox.

Erroll Garner ( photo from Les Musiciens de jazz et leurs trois voeux - Pannonica de Koenigswarter)
The Concert By The Sea album was one of the first albums in my collection and when I play it, it remembers me to that period long ago. Especially the small conversation at the end of the concert, where Erroll closes the concert with the sign-off tune Erroll's Theme I still know by heart. Jimmy Lyons introduces the musicians and elicits from Erroll the famous words: It's worse then Louis Armstrong .........

Erroll .. Erroll .. Erroll Erroll Garner. Eddy Calhoun - Denzil Da Costa Best - Erroll .. Erroll .. Erroll Erroll Garner. Come here- Come here - Come here - You know something? You haven't heard Erroll say one word and he got a great voice I was insisting he go on the air. Erroll say one word.
It's worse then Louis Armstrong

The article about Erroll's debut in The Netherlands is entitled: Nederlands debuut van Erroll Garner, 1958 by Herman Openneer ( Jazz Bulletin no. 26 (Dec. 1997)(p.49 -57)
In 1998 Jan Van Diepenbeek wrote an informative series of articles in Dutch in Doctor Jazz Magazine about Erroll Garner (no. 156 onwards).

Hans Koert

Erroll Garner's Concert By The Sea is one of those records that should be in any record collection. It became, although recorded on a simple reel-to-reel tape recorder - the sound quality was not good at all, a million seller in the 1950s. Concert By The Sea is a flawed monument of perfection. This recording was a dichotomy, a paradox, where the unlearned not only prevail, but create art of a lasting quality. This is the art. ( Michael Bailey)
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Blogger brianbrora said...

I think far to much is made about this being a poor quality recording. Just put the record (or CD) on, sit back, and enjoy. If the recording had been as bad as some write ups suggest, then it wouldn't have got issued in the first place. Most people who I've played this recording to don't notice a thing - except the wonderous nature of the music!.

9:55 PM  

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