Erroll Garner – Feeling is Believing (Octave/Mack Avenue)
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Erroll Garner – Feeling is Believing (Octave/Mack Avenue)

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Fame is a fickle and frequently finite condition for artists of any idiom. Pianist Erroll Garner experienced his fair share of notoriety over a thirty-year career, peaking with the release of Concert by the Sea on Columbia in 1955 and what would become a million made in record sales. Rooted in swing, his popular, but personalized keyboard style was flexible enough to embrace the advent of bebop and the primacy of pop. Feeling is Believing comes from the latter end of that spectrum and finds Garner trying to retain relevancy by embracing a selection of au courant songs alongside original compositions. Cobbled together from six recording sessions, the album is also evidence of Garner searching for the right combinations of players for the circumstances. What the album cedes in a constancy of personnel, it recoups in variety of sound.

Garner’s piano is a fixed ingredient, but the rhythm section chairs are revolving, involving George Duvivier and Gerald Jemmott on bass, and Jimmie Smith, Joe Cocuzzo, and Charlie Persip on drums. Conguero Jose Mangual lends skins and percolating textures that further date the project to its 1969 origins. Garner’s “For Once in My Life” kicks the set off with a jaunty collision of block chords that sounds more like Jaki Byard than its composer before locking in a Mangual-accented rolling groove anchored on Duvivier’s unflappable strolling bass line. Lennon and McCartney’s “Yesterday” arrives as the first of the pop song retoolings, equal parts cascading two handed dexterity and cocktail cool, with Garner adding unintelligible mutterings atop his deft keystroke musings.

“You Turned Me Around” is both the longest and elaborate of the originals. An uncredited guitarist strums chords in concert with Jemmott’s bulbous electric bass fills and Smith’s barely-there drum accents. Mangual’s palms percolate, and the combinative results gel into a robust groove for Garner to glide up and down the keyboard around. “Mood Island” brings in some lightly Latin-spiced exotica while a boogaloo-stamped cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” and the old amorous staple “Strangers in the Night” are similarly suited to the feeling of a relaxed cigarette-scented club recital. Co-curated by the Octave and Mack Avenue labels, the Garner reissue program is now up to a dozen releases. Each is worth revisiting and offers proof that even when rock and pop had made major label outings by his peers less common, he was still sustaining enviable degree of productivity.

Derek Taylor

Read Article: Dusted Magazine