Red Garland

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Red Garland
Red Garland 9A.jpg
Garland at Keystone Korner jazz club, San Francisco, California, May 1978
Background information
Birth name William McKinley Garland, Jr.
Born (1923-05-13)May 13, 1923
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Died April 23, 1984(1984-04-23) (aged 60)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Genres Jazz, straight-ahead jazz, bebop, hard bop
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Piano
Years active 1940s–1984
Labels Prestige
Associated acts Miles Davis

William McKinley "Red" Garland, Jr. (May 13, 1923 – April 23, 1984)[1] was an American modern jazz pianist. Known for his work as a bandleader and during the 1950s with Miles Davis, Garland helped popularize the block chord style of piano playing.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

William "Red" Garland was born in 1923 in Dallas, Texas. He began his musical studies on the clarinet and alto saxophone but, in 1941, switched to the piano. Less than five years later, Garland joined a well-known trumpet player in the southwest - Hot Lips Page, playing with him until a tour ended in New York in March 1946. Having decided to stay in New York to find work, Art Blakey came across Garland playing at a small club, only to return the next night with Blakey's boss, Billy Eckstine.[4]

Garland also had a short-lived career as a welterweight boxer in the 1940s. He fought more than 35 fights, one being an exhibition bout with Sugar Ray Robinson.[5]

Later life and career[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 City, 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]

1955–58 – Miles Davis Quintet[edit]

Garland became famous in 1954 when he joined the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, and Paul Chambers. Davis was a 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 (1954), 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. Some observers dismissed Garland as a "cocktail" pianist,[6] but Miles was pleased with his style, having urged Garland to absorb some of Jamal's lightness of touch and harmonics within his own approach.[7]

Garland played on the first of Davis's many Columbia recordings, 'Round About Midnight (1957). 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 shows. 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.

1958–84 – 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.[8] Altogether, Garland led 19 recording sessions while at Prestige Records and 25 sessions for Fantasy Records. He stopped playing professionally for a number of years in the 1960s when the popularity of rock 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 on April 23, 1984 at the age of 60.[9]

Playing style[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 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 frequently left out the roots of the chords, a chord style later associated with pianist Bill Evans.

Partial discography[edit]

As leader[edit]


As sideman[edit]

With Arnett Cobb

With John Coltrane

With Sonny Rollins

With Miles Davis

With Curtis Fuller

With Jackie McLean

With Art Pepper

With Phil Woods

  • Sugan (Prestige Status, 1957)


  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. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Red Garland Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 28 August 2016. 
  3. ^ Simpson, Joel. "Red Garland Profile". All About Jazz. Retrieved 28 August 2016. 
  4. ^ Seeing Red. Texas Monthly. 1977-03-01. 
  5. ^ Szwed, John (2004-01-09). So What: The Life of Miles Davis. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684859835. 
  6. ^ Giddins, Garry (April 3, 1978). "Red Garland's Texas Cocktail". The Village Voice. p. 49. 
  7. ^ Mathieson, Kenny (2012). Giant Steps: Bebop And The Creators Of Modern Jazz, 1945-65. Canongate Books. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-85786-617-2. 
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-02-25. 
  9. ^ Pareles, John (26 April 1984). "Red Garland, a Pianist in Miles Davis Quintet". The New York Times. 

External links[edit]