The Influences, Uniqueness And Diversity Of Erroll Garner's Compositions

937 words - 4 pages

Erroll Garner (1921 - 1977) was a sophisticated jazz pianist referred to as .".. a brilliant virtuoso who sounded unlike anyone else..." . His approach to music was in the style of "Swing Music" as well as "Bop", but he still had a very unique, individual style that was heavily influenced by his lack of training (he wasn't taught how to read music), as well as many composers and particular playing styles. Over time, garner developed his own style and has been referred to as a pioneer of the "hard swinging jazz style."

The distinctiveness of Garner's individuality has often been discussed and many people believe he was ."..ultimately a very idiosyncratic player, and he didn't fit well into any of the standard piano style groupings of 40's and 50's jazz." However, it was the rare uniqueness that people admired and appreaciated that brought the chic American jazz pianist to fame.

Garner had many characteristics and traits evident throughout his compositions that help to identify the character of some his compositional styles. These techniques include octaval melodies, broken chords and tremolos, syncopation, extended chords, chromaticism and polyrhythms. All of these are obvious, common traits of past and present jazz music.

Examples of these are in the following sound excerpts:

"Dreamstreet", 1961 - tremolos and syncopation

"Left Bank Swing", 1958 - syncopation and octaval melodies "It Gets Better Every Time", 1974 - chromaticism "Other Voices", 1964 - extended chords (Sound "Misty", 1954 - broken chords and polyrhythms

These excerpts also supply an understanding of the diversity of Garner's compositions. Many composers develop and maintain a particular conceptual style that is evident throughout all their pieces (e.g. lyrical melody with a simple bass line). Garner however, progressively continued to change the basic nature of all his pieces which range from very slow, emotional ballads to faster, lively items. "Dreamy", 1956 is an example of a slower piece where as "Shake It But Don't Break It", 1967 is a more up-beat piece. This diversity was also justified by Erroll Garner:

"I always play what I feel. I always feel like me, but I'm a different me every day. I get ideas from everything..."

Garner's music influences included the music of Art Tatum and Earl Hines, both accomplished jazz pianists, as well as the "novelty rags" of the 1920's. Many of Hines and Tatum's common compositional techniques are consequently evident in Garner's pieces. These include the octaval melodies, syncopated rhythm, chromaticism particularly in the bass line, and extended chords- also all common elements to past and present jazz music.

Examples of these are shown in the pieces "My Monday Date" - Earl Hines, "Tatum Plays The Blues" - Art Tatum, "This Time It's Real" - Erroll Garner, 1968.

Garner also adapted many of the key elements to "Stride" and...

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