In May, members of Vinyl Me, Please Classics will receive the first vinyl reissue of Erroll Garner’s Magician in almost 50 years. This new edition of the album features liner notes from Ted Gioia, and is remastered via an innovative digital conversion called Plangent from the original master reels. You can read more about the remastering here (http://magazine.vinylmeplease.com/magazine/erroll-garner-vmp-plangent-process) and read below for more info on the album.
VMP: This is a pretty left-field record compared to some of the albums we’ve featured in Classics recently. Why did you end up picking this record to do this month?
Andrew Winistorfer, VMP Classics A&R: Yeah, I guess it is, compared to Otis or Herbie. But, yeah, this one came to be in kind of in a winding way. It starts with me following Ted Gioia — who’s this world famous jazz writer who’s written some of the defining texts of jazz criticism — on Twitter a few years ago, and always paying attention to when he’d Tweet about lost jazz albums he thinks people should listen to. And one day he Tweeted that he loved this album called Magician by Erroll Garner. I knew Erroll Garner — I think anyone who spends time buying jazz records in record stores has seen his records and has Concert by the Sea — but had never heard of that album and my knowledge of him wasn't much deeper than that album, like I think most people's is. And then I did some research and reading into Garner’s career, and learned about his storied life, and honestly, I feel like someone needs to make his life story into a movie.
He was this tremendously popular performer in the ’50s, and until Miles Davis came along, was probably the biggest single named guy in jazz; selling tons of records, playing tons of shows. You don’t realize how big someone has to be for a label to bankroll you recording a jazz concert in 1955, and then pressing and selling millions of them. But then I also learned that he had this private fight against his record label, where they weren’t paying him appropriately and he wasn’t given the control over his career that he clearly deserved. He sued, and won, but then was sort of blackballed to a degree; he had to make his own record label to put out his own music, and find distributors to put them out. For that reason, his latter albums are under-heralded and under-heard, and Magician was his last studio album before he died in 1977.
And Magician is a perfectly titled album; you can listen to this a dozen times and not really get a sense of how he’s getting these notes off. Erroll Garner was better at the piano than I’ll be at anything in my life, you know? He was an incredible player, and this album speaks to his skills, and with the added layer of story here, it was an album I thought would be perfect for Classics.
So that was back in like, 2017, and in 2019, we got this email from the fine folks at Mack Ave, who are helping coordinate digital reissues of all of Garner’s independent albums, asking if we’d be interested in doing vinyl on some of the releases they prepared for late-2019, and I immediately asked for Magician instead, which isn’t even out digitally at all yet — it's coming to streaming services in parternship with this release— and wasn’t even on the list of albums they were asking about (laughs). And luckily, they were down for us to do the vinyl on this. And then I reached out to Ted to write the liner notes, and closed that circle, which was a good feeling.
This is the first title since before Al Green to not be AAA, right? Can you talk through why that is?
Yeah, the album and the story were so incredible, and this opportunity so rare for us and Classics, it was worth it to me for us to break our AAA reissue streak for this one, because, for one, as laid out in our interview with Peter Lockhart, the digital reissues of this one were done using the Plangent process, which is something we haven’t had much — if any — experience with as a company, and the masters sounded incredible. And two, while making as many records AAA as humanly possible is important to me and to Classics in general, I don’t think this might have happened otherwise, and I don’t want to limit Classics and disqualify something like this incredible Erroll Garner album because of our push for AAA. It’s not going to be a habit, but I think it was a great opportunity for us to bring this record back to vinyl, which might not have happened if we hadn’t pushed for this for Classics.
So, black vinyl, 180 gram, what else do people need to know?
Yep, 180 gram vinyl, black, and remastered from the original tapes to digital, using the Plangent Process. The lacquers were cut by our pal Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, and this record has never sounded better. We pressed this one at Furnace because of COVID-19 shutting down our friends at QRP, and luckily Furnace was able to fit us in. This album has been on my proverbial whiteboard for a while, and it’s amazing to be able to hold this one in my hands.
An earlier version of this article said the title was pressed at Pallas; it was pressed at Furnace under the guidance of Pallas. We regret the error.