ERROLL GARNER TRIO Concert By The Sea (Jazz Beat)

“Recorded in actual performance at Carmel, California” boasts the front cover, but perhaps “Concert By The Sea” should’ve been titled “Concert In The Sea”, given its somewhat waterlogged sonics. Allegedly recorded on barely professional equipment for a local radio station, it sounds a bit foggy even for a mid-1950s release, somewhat squandering the sleeve notes’ promise of the venue’s excellent acoustics.

Expectations suitably adjusted, “Concert By The Sea” makes an entertaining listen. Garner’s signature, singular style is all over these performances, to the extent that the rest of his trio (bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Denzil Best, composer of the jazz standard “Move”) barely get a look in, let alone a solo. Garner frequently teases the audience with portentuous, lolloping introductions, before launching into the melody proper with impish glee, hands scampering all over the keyboard, accompanied by all manner of amusical moans and grunts. He brings some finely modulated drama to “Autumn Leaves”, takes a circuitous route into “April In Paris” and canters breathlessly through “Where Or When”. That he has a handle on the popular tastes of the time is evidenced by the fact that two of these tunes also turn up on Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s near-contemporaneous duet debut.

Originally released on Columbia, this 180 gram vinyl reissue is a product of the mysterious Spanish concern Jazz Beat, perhaps something to do with a possible lapse in copyright on these 50+ year old recordings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are no claims of original mastertapes being used, nor any other explanation of where this release was sourced from. The best that can be said about this pressing is that it doesn’t seem to worsen the unsatisfactory sonics significantly.