Erroll Garner – Ready Take One [vinyl edition] (review)

Erroll Garner – Ready Take One (Legacy / Octave Music) review

A stellar release, made even better when experienced on vinyl

These days, virtually all new releases get issued on vinyl.  Yet, so much of it seems like either a cash-in or an afterthought, with no regard for what used to be “the vinyl experience.”  That’s what makes Ready Take One, a 2-LP set of newly-discovered recordings from one of the giants of jazz piano, Erroll Garner, such a pure delight: it’s as if these tracks were tailor made for the analog LP format.

Issued digitally back in September, these 14 previously unreleased tracks, originally recorded from 1967-1971, are part of a collaboration between the estates of Garner and his longtime manager/producer Martha Glaser that promises more new archival material in the coming years.

Yet, having these recordings on vinyl is an entirely different experience.

Pressed on high resolution, 150-gram vinyl, these tracks jump out of the speakers; full of warmth and clarity – something lacking when listening to streaming services or mp3s.  Legacy claims to have paid special attention to the LP release, and it certainly shows.

Everything about this says top notch: the stunning cover, featuring the pianist’s name in embossed lettering, the gatefold cover’s inside photos of Garner and Glaser in the studio, and the accompanying 12 x12 booklet, featuring extensive liner notes and photos (some exclusive to this vinyl version).

Then, there’s the music.  Of the 14 performances, six are original Garner compositions, never-before heard.

If you only know Erroll Garner from Concert By the Sea, prepare to be blown away

Despite releasing that genre-defining album back in 1956, one listen to Ready Take One, and it’s obvious that the pianist experienced tremendous creative growth in the ten years that followed. Record one, side one begins with the Latin funk of “High Wire” – opening with the sound of a fretless bass, before becoming a showcase for Garner’s unique style – his right hand fluidly roaming the keys, often to a dizzying effect, while his left pounds out the rhythm, all the while happily grunting along.

Another standout is his soulful rendition of Bobby Hebb’s pop nugget, “Sunny.”  The song starts, in typical Garner fashion, with some opening lines that give no indication of the melody.  But, things eventually settle into a gentle groove.  Why this wasn’t considered for a single is a real head-scratcher.

He also tackles familiar territory, with tracks like Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” and Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” – after introducing the melody, he takes things to surprising places. The real treat is saved for last – a gorgeous take on his own signature song, “Misty.”  It’s rare that an artist’s best-known track is handled so delicately the second time around.

One of the great aspects of this set is the in-between song banter between Garner, Glaser and the bandmates.  In fact, the album’s title comes from Glaser’s habit of saying “Ready, Take One” to start each recording.  She shouts an encouraging “more!” at the end of a spirited “I Want to Be Happy,”  and “you got it that time” after “Chase Me.”

Just because these tracks are previously unreleased, doesn’t mean they’re throwaways.  Quite the contrary – Ready Take One is full of breathtaking performances.  This album immediately ranks as one of Erroll Garner’s best – a must for any fan of classic jazz.  –Tony Peters