One of the most distinctive and popular stylists in the history jazz, pianist Erroll Garner, counter to the trends established by Bud Powell in the 1940s, developed an idiosyncratic left hand style, in which he pumped out rhythm in four-four time, like a little rhythm section. Garner's infectious rhythms and feel for popular songs netted him one of the most beloved albums in jazz, Concert By The Sea. He also composed one of the most popular songs of all time, "Misty."
Garner was born in Pittsburgh on June 15, 1921, where he attended Westinghouse High School (as did Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal). Garner was self-taught and remained an "ear player" all his life -- he never learned to read music. In 1944, he moved to New York and after subbing for Art Tatum in a trio with Tiny Grimes and Slam Stewart, took over the gig. Though he recorded with larger groups (with Charlie Parker, for example), the piano trio, with bass and drums, would be his format of choice for the rest of his career. While he was highly respected by jazz musicians, along with George Shearing he would also be instrumental in popularizing an "easy listening" style of jazz that proliferated in lounges. Garner was enormously popular, appearing on television and making hundreds of records. His playing, however, while commercially successful, featured tremendous sophistication, particularly in his long, rhapsodic introductions and his rhythmically independent right hand, which seemed to drop behind the beat. Garner died on Jan. 2, 1977 in Los Angeles.