That dual focus means the book remains a treasure trove for both the casual fan, eager to read the oral history’s anecdotes of family and musicians, and the Garner diehard committed to mastering the details of this master improviser’s every mid-century radio broadcast, recording date, or TV appearance–Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, and Johnny Carson all found time for jazz music in the early 1960s. The biographical section, meanwhile, bursts with lively talk and vivid detail from dozens of interviewees, many of them now deceased. “Three things about Erroll: He was great, he always smoked, and he was always late,” notes pianist Alyce Brooks, while the storied bassist Ray Brown, who knew Garner when both were making a name for themselves in Pittsburgh, says “Erroll Garner played with such feeling that you feel like paying him to play with him.”
True to the spirit of a musician with the most inviting of demeanors and musical approaches, The Most Happy Piano stands as an unusually welcoming jazz book. Like a Garner performance (such as the one captured on 1955’s best seller Concert By the Sea), Doran’s study has the feeling of a celebration. It doesn’t just tell the story of a singular American musician; it preserves the memories of those who knew him for the benefit of the future.
Takeaway: Back in print at last, this irreplaceable study of jazz great Erroll Garner offers riches for casual fans and diehard collectors.
Great for fans of: Nat Shaprio and Nat Hentoff’s Hear Me Talkin' to Ya, Ben Sidran’s Talkin’ Jazz: An Oral History.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A