Om Erroll Garner
Put on an Errol Garner record and you can't help but get "Misty." The emotional world his music inhabited was the perfect mix of elation and sadness. Garner was one the finest jazz musicians to ever find enormous and long-lasting public success. His Swing-meets-Bop style is immediately recognizable -- complex introductions segue into a rhythm play between left and right hands, the right hand playing behind the beat set by the left. This approach was so solid and complete that Garner was his own portable orchestra, and he rarely performed in any group larger than a trio. Though he recorded prolifically, there are also a lot of shoddy Garner re-issues out there in terms of sound quality. Start with Concert By the Sea (1955), a brilliant live document that is one of the essential jazz albums. Musicians loved Garner's playing as much as the public, but his style was so completely individual that other pianists mainly emulate it in tribute to him. The groundbreaking Hammond B-3 master Jimmy Smith, however, has repeatedly mentioned that he adapted Garner's keyboard approach to the organ and in the process, revolutionized the instrument. Listening to Errol Garner remains one of life's most sublime pleasures.