Erroll Garner ‘Nightconcert’ CD (Mack Avenue) 5/5

Unreleased live recordings can sometimes be poorly recorded and of strictly limited historical interest only, but this is a gem of a recording. Clear and vibrant recording quality from a November 1964 live concert at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and almost eighty minutes of sheer musical bliss. The trio are in terrific form, with long-time bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin, and Erroll Garner demonstrates why he is second only to Art Tatum in terms of virtuoso technique, and with the ability to make the piano sing. A quintessentially classic repertoire that borrows predominantly from the great American songbook is enhanced by a trio of Garner originals. The one-off, ‘Amsterdam swing’, is precisely that: a storming stroll through pianistic jazz swing, but Garner’s versatility is further demonstrated on the gorgeous balladry work of, ‘Theme from a new kind of love’. Indeed, some of the introductory motifs give no clue whatsoever as to what is about to follow and Erroll Garner marvelled at leaving the audience in suspense until the very last moment. This is the case of, ‘Green Dolphin Street, which starts off slow and then moves up into another gear or two, with a delicate passage part way through. At various places throughout, Kelly Martin on drums excels with his own distinctive and thrilling brand of latinized hi-hat drum rolls, and Erroll Garner was a fervent admirer of Latin music. For some blues inflections, ‘Night and day’, fits the bill admirably. The trio work wonderfully in tandem at all times and that is one of the many joys of this live album, with, Easy to love’, just one major highlight of a stunning set, and the unobtrusive audience applause leaves little doubt as to their considerable listening pleasure of proceedings.

A beautifully illustrated inner sleeve with black and white photos of the concert venue and colour photos of the pianist is rounded off by lengthy and informative notes by Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley. A worthy addition to the outstanding re-issues/unreleased material from the Sony Columbia label archives. Full marks to Mack Avenue for uncovering this masterful recording.

Tim Stenhouse