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Sun, 05.13.1923

‘Red’ Garland, Jazz Pianist born.

'Red' Garland

*'Red' Garland was born on this date in 1923. He was a Black modern jazz pianist.

Known for helping popularize the block chord style of playing in jazz piano. William McKinley ‘Red’ Garland Jr. was born 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 the trumpet player Hot Lips Page, well-known in the southwest, playing with him until a tour ended in New York in March 1946. When Garland 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 his boss, Billy Eckstine.

Garland became famous in 1954 when he joined the Miles Davis Quintet. Garland's style is prominent with the group, evident in his distinctive chord voicings, sophisticated accompaniment, and musical references to Ahmad Jamal's style. Some observers dismissed Garland as a "cocktail" pianist, but Miles was pleased with his style, having urged Garland to absorb some of Jamal's lightness of touch and harmonics within his approach.  Garland played on the first of Davis's Columbia recordings, 'Round About Midnight (1957).

Though he would continue playing with Miles, their relationship was beginning to deteriorate. By 1958, Garland and Philly Joe Jones had 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.

In 1958, Garland formed his trio. Among the musicians the trio recorded with are Pepper Adams, Nat Adderley, Ray Barretto, Kenny BurrellEddie "Lockjaw" DavisJimmy HeathHarold LandPhilly Joe Jones, Blue Mitchell, Ira Sullivan, and Leroy Vinnegar. The trio also recorded as a quintet with John Coltrane and Donald Byrd. Altogether, Garland led 19 recording sessions at Prestige Records and 25 for Fantasy Records. He stopped playing professionally for several years in the 1960s when the popularity of rock music coincided with a substantial drop in the popularity of jazz.

Garland returned to 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 bassist Ron Carter. His later work tended to sound more modern than his better-known recordings. He continued recording until his death from a heart attack on April 23, 1984, at 60.

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