Spring has come!

On a related note, The Smithsonian Institute has declared that April is “Jazz Appreciation Month.” Of course most have heard the phrase: “The Birthplace of Jazz” (the motto was coined as a promotional slogan for French Quarter tourism and realty, a few decades back.) Well Dear Reader, I say: Jazz is still being born here in New Orleans! While I still cannot present any numbers to you, I will say it again – New Orleans is within a sho'nuff Katrina Baby Boom! Everywhere I look, there are smiling, crying, laughing, and drumming toddlers of all hues, just ready for action.

April is a real gassuh! These few weeks of glory, with the days and nights moving away from balance, and boldly into change, does put me in a rare state of consciousness. I have been known to also say that: As Jazz was born in New Orleans – let's say – roughly a hundred years from today, then the baby came in the Spring.

This blog will take on a slightly different contour to mark this special appreciation of Jazz, for the year 2009, the Centennial of Danny Barker who – having been born January 13th, 1909 – was conceived in his father's eyes and his mother's womb... oh, close to this very day, or night, 101 years ago! Peace to Danny... and to his Ancestors.

For the month of April, and perhaps onward, we will examine the lives of a few of the “Immortals” of Jazz music whom Danny knew. Indeed their lives and times are given a new light when described to the students of Xavier University by Mr. Barker. I am proud and honored to offer some of these histories to you. First on deck: one of the most distinctive artistry's in Jazz music, and one of the most under-appreciated – pianist, Erroll Garner.

Mr. Barker often brought records to class and, on this day, after having spun the first three courses of Autumn Leaves from "Erroll Garner Concert by the Sea" in this excerpt; (from a tape annotated: 4-8-76 Mr. Barker #) Danny upholds this man's genius.

Genius.wav

“He hasn't looked back since.” Errol Garner died just nine months after Danny made this summation. The pianist was only 55.

"You could make it anywhere!" It is apparent to me that Mr. Barker is not so much taking credit for the pianist's ascent. Rather, he is pointing out, to the students who very likely had never heard Erroll Garner's music before (unless they had gone through their parent's record collection,) just how incongruous it is that someone of Garner's talent could view himself as somewhat inadequate.

Garner began playing piano at the age of 3, apparently following the lead of his older brother, Linton Garner. He was performing professionally at an early age as well – all the while never having been taught how to read printed music. Garner developed a musical memory that I would have to characterize as legendary.

In an obituary appearing in the New York Times, John Wilson stated that: “After attending a concert by the Russian pianist Emil Gilels, Garner returned to his apartment and was able to play a large portion of the performed music by recall.”

Here are the three courses that Mr. Barker proceeded his words with. The first I would subtitle, Jazz variations in the manner of the great piano masters of Russia.

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The next, Further explorations of: Joplin, Johnson, Hines, and Waller; in the piano tradition of Stride.

Stride.wav

In the third chorus of Autumn Leaves, from Concert by the Sea (recorded for Columbia on September 19th, 1955) Erroll Garner seems to boldy join the two worlds of sound in, The epitome of Style.

Style.wav

Peace & Pops,
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THE BABY-BOOMER QUESTION: Did you see Errol Garner on TV?

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Tags: danny-barker, erroll-garner, jazz-appreciation-month-2009, jazz-history, new-orleans

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Comment by Esquizito on April 7, 2009 at 9:35am
"Further explorations of: Joplin, Johnson, Hines, and Waller; in the piano tradition of Stride."

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