The veteran jazz men, bassist Ernest McCarty Jr and drummer Jimmie Smith both toured and recorded with the legendary pianist Erroll Garner throughout the 1970s. Therefore, it is no surprise they decided to reunite, form a quartet and pay tribute to one of jazz’s all time most exciting performers who wrote the all-time classic Misty. To round out the quartet, Ernest and Jimmie chose the late pianist Geri Allen who grew up admiring and emulating the piano styling of Mr. Garner, sadly it turned out to be one of, if not the last studio recording of Ms. Allen who passed away in 2017, 40 years after Erroll had died. Garner hailed from Pittsburgh, PA the home of percussionist Noel Quintana who completes the quartet. Erroll often used percussionists for his concerts and recording sessions which is why McCarty and Smith felt compelled to use a percussionist on several tracks to stay true to the sound of their former band leader who opened the door to so many opportunities for them during and after their tenure with Garner. McCarty credits Garner for broadening his life and musical scope: “We had the chance to see things and do things like have dinner with princess and ambassadors. said McCarty Jr., who performed in the All-Chicago Youth Orchestra for three years and had aspirations of performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra but was unable to do so due to the color of his skin.”
A Reunion Tribute to Erroll Garner is on the BluJazz Productions label which is known for releasing many Chicago based artists, the label’s home town. However, they also record and promote many other nationally known artists in various genres. One of the more fascinating aspect of this gem of a recording is that Messer McCarty and Smith decided to record the homage to Erroll in his home town of Pittsburgh, moreover, just like with Garner who could not read or write music, they recorded the album without rehearsal over a 2-day stretch. Here’s what Smith said about this session: “We didn’t have no rehearsal, no nothing; we just sat down and hit—bang there it is. It was a pleasure doing it and it turned out so fantastic. I didn’t know what Ernie had in mind; my main thing was I just kept the time. But when we were with Erroll, we never had a rehearsal. We never knew what we were going to record. Erroll was a genius.” All those concerts and recordings with Erroll Garner has paid dividends as this CD is the closest testimony we have of how Garner would sound had he lived until the 21st Century. This music is powerful and emotional, filled with the same joy Erroll exuded with his playing, so don’t be surprised if after hearing this album start-to-finish, like me, you too will feel a little misty!