Erroll Garner, the irrepressibly ebullient pianist, left an influence that runs deep but often diffuse: it isn't often that you hear someone who sounds just like him, but there's an awful lot of him in the language. Consider an exchange at our recent Yamaha Salon Concert between Kenny Werner and Andy Milne — a pair of super-literate, restlessly imaginative pianists, a generation apart. Their performance conjured Garner in spirit, without resorting to imitative devices, and set a high bar for responsive duologue.
Appropriately enough, they began with a probing and playful extrapolation of "Tea For Two." Then, after a brief interlude of conversation with Michael Bourne, they offered a delicate, digressive "Autumn Leaves." At every turn of phrase, you could sense the deep listening between the two players. You could also hear their differences, and the ways in which they found an improvised common ground.
As Werner put it, between songs:"I think the best way you can honor any other musicain is to do what's occurring to you — to do what your sound is."