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James Pearson Trio - Tribute to Errol Garner

Venue: Music in the Garden Wavendon Stables, Wavendon, Bucks

Timeline 2.30pm, Sunday, 17 June 2012

James Pearson is undoubtedly one of the UKís most accomplished mainstream jazz pianists - nothing less would be expected of the resident pianist of Ronnie Scottís Jazz Club.

He is also a consummate entertainer, engaging his audiences with amusing facts and anecdotes surrounding the numbers, vocalists and instrumentalists featured in his programmes. Combined with the excellence of his playing, this proved an enticing mix.

Erroll Garner had a distinctive and highly accessible style. It is impossible to confuse him with any other jazz pianist of any era. His elaborate and florid introductions leading to the first statement of the theme were a typical characteristic. His inability to read music (resulting in his exclusion from the American Musicianís Union), and his need to place telephone directories on his piano stool to address the keyboard, are legendary.

James Pearsonís tribute to Garner was proficient and highly skilled. Of course, many of the numbers were Garner classics - Misty, Honeysuckle Rose, Gemini, as well as Garnerís much-favoured Latin-American ĎMamboí offerings. He captured Garnerís style with aplomb and panache.

This is not the first of this type of tribute that James Pearson has presented. On a previous visit, as part of the Wavendon Music in the Garden programme, he paid tribute to Dudley Moore, and he also performs tributes to Oscar Peterson.

At one instance in the performance, he made the point that Garner played much of the time without looking at the keyboard (instead, either watching his fellow players, or smiling at the audience), a skill which he (Pearson) professed himself unable to master.

One of the difficulties of Ďtributeí performances is that they inevitably (and unfairly) lead to a comparison with the original artiste. Just a few minutes viewing on You Tube of Errol Garnerís 35-minute performance on the BBCís Jazz 625 in 1965 reveals immediately just how absolute and complete was his mastery of the piano. It presented a bridge that, not surprisingly, even James Pearson found difficult to cross.

Nonetheless, his was a highly enjoyable, informative and impressive performance which had an enthralled and riveted audience applauding enthusiastically throughout.