Erroll Garner's brilliantly fractured piano rhythms helped make the bridge between swing and bop less severe, and although he never totally embraced bop, he certainly understood it, as the tracks he made with Charlie Parker (two are included here, "Bird's Nest" and "Cool Blues," both from 1947) make clear. Garner tended toward standards during his career, and this fine two-disc compilation is full of them, from Gershwin's "Summertime" (from 1952) to W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" (from 1953) as well as Garner's own signature version of "Misty" from 1954. Covering the years 1944 to 1954, and featuring material released on a plethora of labels (Mercury, Savoy, Dial, RCA Victor, Modern, Atlantic and Columbia), the set includes the aforementioned sides with Parker, a track ("Blue Lou" from 1947) with Wardell Gray, several assorted trio recordings, and five cuts from Garner's 1955 live LP Concert by the Sea. The end result is a fine overview of Garner in his prime in a variety of settings, and it is difficult to imagine a better introduction to this elegant and joyful-sounding piano player. ~ Steve Leggett
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