Music

Erroll Garner: The Complete Concert by the Sea

A touchstone record for mid-century jazz gets a second wind thanks to the discovery of an extra hour of music. That's right.


Erroll Garner

The Complete Concert by the Sea

Label: Legacy
Release Date: 2015-09-18
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

Concert by the Sea was jazz pianist Erroll Garner's most widely-known and widely-praised record of his 30-year career in the music business. Its beginnings though are far more humbling than its current status would suggest. When Garner and his trio of bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Denzil DaCosta Best arrived at a converted music hall on a military base in Carmel, California in 1955, no one liked the acoustics and the house piano wasn't in tune. Columbia abandoned plans to record and release an album from the show. The only reason Concert by the Sea exists is because Garner's manager accidentally spotted an amateur tape recorder rolling backstage. When Columbia heard this tape, they agreed to release the record which has since gone on to enjoy a level of critical and commercial acclaim that few jazz records enjoy anymore. Sixty years on, Sony offshoot Legacy Recordings is giving us The Complete Concert by the Sea, puffing the content out to twice the size of the original record. So even if you were one of those jazz cats that became familiar with every keystroke of Concert by the Sea over the past 60 years, there are still eleven brand new songs to hear in addition to a total of 17 minutes worth of Jimmy Lyons stage banter and an after concert interview with Garner and his band.

The entire unedited concert is spread over two CDs. When you glance at the order of these 22 songs (including the bafflingly brief closing number "Erroll's Theme") you see just how jumbled the original edited record was. It's as if whoever sequenced the first Concert by the Sea made their choices via dart-throwing. In some ways it's obvious why some tunes made the cut and others did not. After Garner's ornamental introduction to "The Nearness of You", a few select members of the crowd register their approval with applause only to find that not everyone is joining in with them. Likely embarrassed, they stop. You can't really edit out a thing like that. Someone, supposedly Garner himself, is enjoying a good amount of moaning alongside the music on "Bernie's Tune", a quirk that polarizes jazz listeners to this very day (see: most quiet albums by Keith Jarrett). And when you are trimming a 101-minute concert down to one vinyl disc, lengthy songs become a factor which could explain why the beautifully complicated ballad "Laura" or the hard-swinging cover of "Caravan" didn't get included either. The first run of the album did enjoy an Erroll Garner original, even if it wasn't "Misty". It was "Mambo Carmel", a composition written especially for the concert. But no one would have known that since Garner never spoke to the audience between numbers. It's not until the end when announcer Jimmy Lyons asks Garner to speak into the microphone. The late, great pianist describes his voice as "worser than Louis Armstrong", a gimmick that survived the original record's editing.

Speaking of which, there is a Jimmy Lyons introduction to the start of each disc, suggesting that the evening was broken into two sets. Lyons uses the second introduction, which is a whole two minutes longer than the first, to promote Garner's records Solitaire, Music for Dancing, and the Woody Herman record Music for Tired Lovers, the last of which gets quite a rise out of the audience. The "Post Concert Interview" is a fourteen minute track where Will Thornbury interviews Garner, Calhoun, and Best one at a time for what appears to be a radio to be broadcast at a later date. A word that Thornbury keeps bringing up again and again when talking with Garner and talking about the music he plays is "happy". Even when Thornbury is running out of ways in which to phrase questions, he leans on the word "happy" as if it were intrinsically understood. This is not unusual when applied to just Erroll Garner but remains unusual for jazz music overall. The two sides of the jazz coin, America's classical vs. the blues, have roots in things cerebral or sorrowful -- at least that how it looks these days. But Erroll Garner seized a moment in time when jazz music could be used to gleefully entertain. Even though he could sit down at a piano and produce just as many notes as his hard bop contemporaries like Charlie Parker, Garner was all about putting a happy face on the music. The placing of the interview track is odd, though. You see, if you want to hear the original record as it was edited and released in 1955, that's what the set's third disc is for. But the interview track is placed at the end of this third disc when it probably would have made more sense to put it on the end of the second disc, since the first two discs are the ones containing the exclusive material.

What I get out of these spoken word tracks are the vernacular that you just don't hear anymore unless someone is trying to be sarcastic. "With the great glow of the assumption that you're all going to be thrilled right out of your shoes tonight..." "Eddie, we sure appreciate a bass like this because you really played the dickens out of this thing..." Antiquated and quaint, sure, but also the stuff of time capsules on which you can't place a value. The Erroll Garner trio managed to impress an audience and an entire generation of jazz listeners with just one show. With The Complete Concert by the Sea, Legacy is allowing the whole event to happen yet again.

9

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image