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Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Kind Of Knack, Backed Up By Prodigious Practice


Erroll Garner was short. He used to sit on phone books to perform. He could play the piano when he was three years old. Somehow or another the high school he attended in Pittsburgh managed to disgorge Garner as well as Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal. I think I would be worthwhile to drink from the water fountain there, as there must be some sort of Lourdes thing going on.

The music union wouldn't let him in because he couldn't read music. They made him an honorary member after he got famous anyway. Unions are like that. He composed Misty, which is so famous and popular that no one likes it.

He had a beatific face, like a Buddha. He mumbled and grunted without thinking while he played. I recognize the effect. If you've ever watched a juggler, they can't look at any one ball or all of them drop. The juggler must look straight ahead and see all of them at the same time. It is a kind of knack, backed up by prodigious practice. He is looking at a place in the distance he needs to reach and cannot pay attention to what happens any nearer.

He was dead before he was old. He was alive the whole time, though. How many men can claim that?

10 comments:

Deborah HH said...

The first time I heard "The Girl from Ipanema" was the first time I felt like I was growing up---I was about thirteen---because I could appreciate what I sensed was a very sophisticated song.

I'd love to hear Unorganized Hancock perform this.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Deborah- Thanks for reading and commenting.

The boys recorded TGFI about a month ago:

Unorganized Hancock performs The Girl From Ipanema

Johnny Glendale said...

Wow - I Wikipedia'd him (our newest verb?) and, not only did he play with Bassist Slam Stewart, who was a friend of my mom's from the olden times and used to stay at our house when he played the Sacramento Jazzfest, Erroll Garner's article also has a picture of his headlining at The Three Deuces on 52nd Street, where, she reminisced, my mom spent (probably too much) time "in the day." I shall now spend some time thinking thoughts of my mom. Thank you.

Leslie said...

I taught myself to juggle when I was 13, home sick for weeks, and bored out of my mind. I had the knack, but not enough prodigious practice. UH's The Girl from Ipanema is a favorite.

Deborah HH said...

Oh! Splendid version of TGFI by Unorganized Hancock. I don't know how I missed it before.

Rob De Witt said...

Errol Garner is a particular hero of mine. As a singer I've pretty much done whatever music caught my ear, and whatever I got paid for.

This has led to decades of doing classical music and approaching it like a jazz musician - or in other words listening for my part in the harmony more than taking it off the page note by note. I learn stuff REAL fast, but I've never been a great sight-reader, which still after 60 years occasions criticisms from the eternal music students.

My response was learned from Mr. Garner, who, upon hearing the same criticisms, replied "You know, man, they can't hear you read."

Exactly.

Anonymous said...

The only indication I can see that UH hasn't broken up is that I haven't seen any announcement in Downbeat
UH already nailed this song but I found the multiple personalities aspect of the video rather disturbing
Haha can't wait for the next one
Blossom by James Taylor

Gringo said...

From Ben Bradlee Jr.'s book: The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams

Williams lived in a hotel and began spending more time with his third-base coach, Wayne Terwilliger. There was a pizza place outside Arlington that showed Charlie Chaplin and other old movies that Ted enjoyed, so he would ask Twig to join him there. Another time, they went to a jazz club in Dallas to listen to Erroll Garner, long a Williams favorite. They sat near the piano, and Ted would talk to Garner between tunes. “Ted would say that the sound of the bat hitting the ball was as beautiful as listening to Erroll Garner,” Terwilliger wrote in his book.

It wasn't just hitting, fishing and piloting that Teddy Ballgame knew about.

T.K. Tortch said...

Garner was my childhood introduction to stupendous jaw-dropping instrumental talent, and really improvisatory jazz in general, via my Mom who was a classical piano player. His version of "Caravan" was on one of her records, and it's still about my favorite recording of his:

http://youtu.be/ewprgeK_GIM

As a friend of mine once said, "he had FU chops, but he never said FU".

Gagdad Bob said...

It's not that he can't read music. It's just that he's staring off into the distance at a transcendent score written in a language only he can decipher.