‘Concert by the Sea,’ a Jazz Classic by Erroll Garner, Is to Be Reissued
Few jazz albums have reached as wide an audience as the pianist Erroll Garner’s “Concert by the Sea.” Recorded in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., in 1955, it was released on Columbia and quickly achieved a rare sort of success — becoming not only a standout moment in Mr. Garner’s career but also an essential touchstone for pianists, and one of the best-selling jazz albums ever.
This fall, timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the album’s live recording, Sony Legacy and the Octave Music Publishing Corporation will release “The Complete Concert by The Sea,” a 3-CD boxed set featuring 11 previously unissued tracks along with bonus materials.
Due out on Sept. 18, the set will double the available music from the concert, shedding new light on Garner in what is often considered his finest hour (in reality, about an hour and a half). Among the newly unearthed material — never circulated in any form — is a hard-charging, nearly eight-minute version of “Caravan,” which stamped the concert with a bravura finale.
Garner, who would have turned 94 today, is remembered as the composer of “Misty,” the indelible pop ballad. (Although he had written it the previous year, he didn’t play the song at Carmel.) A self-taught dynamo of a pianist, Garner had an ebullient drive and a knack for spontaneous, elaborate digression. He appeared at the Sunset Center with the bassist Eddie Calhoun and the drummer Denzil Best, who constituted his trio at the time but sometimes sounded, by the recorded evidence, as if they had little choice but to just hang on for the ride.
The Carmel concert was produced by the jazz radio personality Jimmy Lyons, just a few years before he founded the Monterey Jazz Festival. Fittingly, on Sept. 18 the 58th annual Monterey Jazz Festival will present a “Concert by the Sea” tribute organized by the pianist Geri Allen. The program will otherwise feature the pianists Jason Moran and Christian Sands, the drummer Jimmy Cobb, the guitarist Russell Malone and the bassist Darek Oles.
“The Complete Concert by the Sea” is just the most visible byproduct of a current archival boon for Garner, who died in 1977 at 53. Ms. Allen, who produced the new release with Steve Rosenthal, is also the director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh, in Garner’s hometown. The university recently established the first official Erroll Garner archive, a trove of recordings, film reels, photographs and correspondence. Which means that there is literally more where this came from, although the archive has chosen the right material for its opening fanfare.
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