It was a delight to hear Erroll Garner at the Loa Club on Friday evening. Well, not exactly. That genius of the keyboard has not been among us for a dozen years, but if you believed in reincarnation there were many moments when it was possible to believe that he returned to us in the form of Dudley Moore.
From the very first bar of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” it was obvious, as it always seems to be when the comedian-actor turns pianist, that he fell in love at an early age with music in the Garner manner.
His amazingly fast octave-chord runs, the lag-along beat, the occasional guitar-like strumming in the left hand, all were part of the unique Garner personality. With flawlessly appropriate support from Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton, Moore kept coming back to this style throughout a set peppered with other delights.
In a more neutral and invariably tasteful style, he offered a medley of songs named for women: “Ruby,” “Laura,” “Georgia” and “Brogan,” the last a charming original dedicated to his wife. The Gershwin medley also worked well. In fact, Moore stumbled only when he overdid the comedy interludes.
His pseudo-operatic vocal, and the long piano solo built on the infamous “Bridge On The River Kwai” theme, are funny the first time around, but this was generally the same set he played at the club on his last visit. Still, his general good humor, phony pratfalls and sly announcements still bring the laughs they deserve.
His choice of tunes is interesting. “Quiet Night,” not related to Jobim’s “Quiet Nights,” was a welcome reminder of a 1936 Richard Rodgers melody. Also from the Rodgers lore was “With a Song In My Heart” (1929).
Surprisingly, neither Brown nor Hamilton played a solo. What they did, though, was exactly right in terms of the requirements: They were in lock-step with a pianist for whom the art of swinging is clearly a triumphant modus vivendi .