Red Garland

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Red Garland
Red Garland 9A.jpg
Pianist Red Garland at jazz club Keystone Korner, San Francisco, California, May 1978. Photo by: Brian McMillen
Background information
Birth name William McKinley Garland, Jr.
Born (1923-05-13)May 13, 1923
Dallas, Texas, United States
Died April 23, 1984(1984-04-23) (aged 60)
Dallas, Texas
Genres Bebop, Hard bop
Instruments Piano
Years active 1940s–1984
Labels Prestige
Associated acts Miles Davis

William "Red" Garland (May 13, 1923 – April 23, 1984)[1] was an American modern jazz pianist whose block chord style, in part originated by Milt Buckner, influenced many forthcoming pianists in the jazz idiom.[2][3]

Biography[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

William "Red" Garland was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1923. His mother played several instruments. He began his musical studies on the clarinet and alto saxophone but in 1940 switched to the piano. Garland spent copious amounts of time practicing and rapidly developed into a proficient player. A short early career as a welterweight boxer did not seem to hurt his playing hands. He fought a young Sugar Ray Robinson before making the switch to a full-time musician.

Garland's sound[edit]

Garland's trademark block chord technique, a commonly borrowed maneuver in jazz piano today, was unique and differed from the methods of earlier block chord pioneers such as George Shearing and Milt Buckner. Garland's block chords were constructed of three notes in the right hand and four notes in the left hand, with the right hand one octave above the left. Garland's left hand played four-note chords that simultaneously beat out the same exact rhythm as the right-hand melody played. But, unlike George Shearing's block chord method, Garland's left-hand chords did not change positions or inversions until the next chord change occurred. It is also worth noting that Garland's four-note left-hand chord voicings occasionally left out the roots of the chords, which later became a chord style associated with pianist Bill Evans. Garland's block chord method had a brighter quality, slightly more dissonance, and a fullness in the upper register compared to the mellower Shearing block chord sound. Garland's solo lines also had a glassy, shimmering tone that matched the quality of his chords.[citation needed]

Early work[edit]

After the Second World War, Garland performed with Billy Eckstine, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. He found steady work in the cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. In the late 1940s he toured with Eddie Vinson at the same time that John Coltrane was in Vinson's band. His creativity and playing ability continued to improve, though he was still somewhat obscure. By the time he became a pianist for Miles Davis he was influenced by Ahmad Jamal and Charlie Parker's pianist Walter Bishop.[citation needed]

Miles Davis Quintet[edit]

Garland became famous in 1955 when he joined the Miles Davis Quintet featuring John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. Davis was a big fan of boxing and was impressed that Garland had boxed earlier in his life. Together the group recorded their famous Prestige albums, Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet, Workin, Steamin', Cookin', and Relaxin'. Garland's style is prominent in these seminal recordings—evident in his distinctive chord voicings, his sophisticated accompaniment and his musical references to Ahmad Jamal's style.[citation needed] Some observers dismissed Garland as a "cocktail" pianist.[4]

Garland played on the first of Davis's many Columbia recordings, 'Round About Midnight. Though he would continue playing with Miles, their relationship was beginning to deteriorate. By 1958, Garland and Jones had started to become more erratic in turning up for recordings and gigs. He was eventually fired by Miles, but later returned to play on another jazz classic, Milestones. Davis was displeased when Garland quoted Davis's much earlier and by then famous solo from "Now's The Time" in block chords during the slower take of "Straight, No Chaser." Garland walked out of one of the sessions for Milestones, so that on the track "Sid's Ahead" Davis comped behind the saxophone solos.

After the Miles Davis Quintet[edit]

In 1958 Garland formed his own trio. Among the musicians the trio recorded with are Pepper Adams, Nat Adderley (Cannonball Adderley's brother), Ray Barretto, Kenny Burrell, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Jimmy Heath, Harold Land, Philly Joe Jones, Blue Mitchell, Ira Sullivan, and Leroy Vinnegar. The trio also recorded as a quintet with John Coltrane and Donald Byrd.[citation needed]

Altogether Garland led 19 recording sessions while at Prestige Records and was involved in 25 sessions for Fantasy Records. He stopped playing professionally for a number of years in the 1960s when the popularity of rock and roll music coincided with a substantial drop in the popularity of jazz.

Garland eventually returned to his native Texas in the 1970s to care for his aged mother. He led a recording in 1977 named Crossings which reunited him with Philly Joe Jones, and he teamed up with world-class bassist Ron Carter. His later work tended to sound more modern and less polished than his better known recordings. He continued recording until his death from a heart attack in April 1984 at the age of 60.

Partial discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

Compilations

As sideman[edit]

With Arnett Cobb

With John Coltrane

With Miles Davis

With Art Pepper

With Phil Woods

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dobbins, Bill; Kernfeld, Barry (2002). "Garland, Red". In Barry Kernfeld. The new Grove dictionary of jazz, vol. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc. p. 14. ISBN 1561592846. 
  2. ^ Allmusic
  3. ^ Allaboutjazz.com
  4. ^ Garry Giddins, The Village Voice, 3 April 1978. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1299&dat=19780403&id=7xMQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=tIsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5965,218356

External links[edit]