Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#638 in the Series) is Erroll Garner, Contrasts
Today I’m going to take you in a completely different direction for our website, as we look at a magnificent pianist named Erroll Garner. Erroll released a ton of albums with a career spanning from the mid-40s to the mid-70s. He was known for his swing style while also delivering some lush ballads at times.
He did have one major hit and that would be a song of his own writing called “Misty.” This song was the subject of the well-known horror movie of 1971 starring Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walters titled Play Misty for Me. You can hear the song and the video playlist at the bottom of the page. Garner co-wrote “Misty” with Johnny Burke.
What separated Erroll Garner from many of his contemporaries was the fact that he did indeed write some of his own material. Many of his albums included roughly half original and have standards. Commonplace at the day at the time was recording pretty much all standards.
Contrasts was originally released in 1955 and then rereleased in the ‘90s. Some of the standards here that you may know include “You Are My Sunshine,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” and two from Duke Ellington, “In a Mellow Tone,” and “I’ve Got to Be a Rug Cutter.”
I first became aware of Erroll Garner when I had this little summertime job at a tiny factory at the end of my block. While working there as a teenager I was befriended by a “old timer” named Jimmy Casin. Looking back on it Jimmy may have been younger than I am now, but to me at that stage of my life, he was an old timer. He was a cool dude who loved his music and we quickly started talking about some of our favorites. Easily topping his list was Erroll Garner and all he talked about was “how can anyone say that Oscar Peterson is better than Erroll Garner? It pi$%#s me off!” he would tell me! I didn’t know either one so I could not answer that, but his passion made me wonder who this Erroll Garner guy was and it really piqued my interest into another style of music that I never would’ve had an interest.
To say Jimmy was a crazy dude would be an understatement. Let’s just say he had a very unique way of describing some of Erroll’s fast-fingered piano playing. I’m not sure how to put this, but whenever Erroll was really cranking it out he would say “listen to that Larry, that’s what you call ‘Feeney in the F-House, Feeney in the F-House.” I think you could fill in the rest of the word. It was so funny. “Feeney in the F-House” he would say while moving his fingers quickly to sell his description. To this day whenever I hear a hot jazz pianists go at it I can’t help but think back of those days when I worked with Jim.
Give a listen to some of the songs in that video playlist below, especially “Misty” and turn yourself onto some beautifully skilled musicians and their work.
- You Are My Sunshine (Davis, Mitchell) 3:26
- I’ve Got the World on a String (Arlen, Koehler) 3:58
- 7-11 Jump (Garner) 7:16
- Part Time Blues (Garner) 4:31
- Rosalie (Porter) 2:35
- In a Mellow Tone (Ellington, Gabler) 4:17
- Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me (Bloom, Koehler) 5:01
- (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings (Blanvillain, Herpin, Rome) 3:19
- There’s a Small Hotel (Hart, Rodgers) 3:08
- Misty (Burke, Garner) 2:45
- I’ve Got to Be a Rug Cutter (Ellington) 2:19
- Sweet and Lovely (Arnheim, LeMare, Tobias) 3:53
- Exactly Like You (Fields, McHugh) 3:10
- Erroll Garner – Piano
- Candido Camero – Conga
- Eugene “Fats” Heard – Drums
- Wyatt Ruther – Bass