University of Pittsburgh

Erroll Garner Exhibit Opening Reception

February 4, 2016 - 4:00pm
Free

The Department of Music and University Library System cordially invite you to join us for the opening reception of the new exhibit "Erroll and Martha: The Jazz Manager as Adviser, Advocate, Encourager, Enforcer." The reception will be held at 4pm on Thursday, February 4 in the International Jazz Hall of Fame, located in the front lobby of the William Pitt Student Union. 

Pittsburgh-born pianist Erroll Garner (1921-1977) was among the most staggeringly creative artists that jazz has ever known. From the 1940s to the 1970s, he dazzled audiences with stunning virtuosity and boundless inventiveness. Garner was renowned for his ability to improvise nuanced introductions to familiar songs, for the exhilarating interplay between the left and right hands, for his remarkable sense of melody and pacing. His devotees included celebrities like Ringo Starr and Ted Williams, and his 1955 live album Concert By The Sea remains among the best-selling jazz albums of all time. By any measure, Garner was one of jazz’s brightest stars, and one of the most remarkable prodigies of the 20th century.

But behind the scenes, a second individual was powerfully influential in Garner’s rise to stardom: his longtime agent and manager Martha Glaser (1921-2014). From the early 1950s until the pianist’s death in 1977, Glaser fought tooth and nail for her client. Drawing from her background in civil rights activism, she consistently negotiated to ensure that the pianist and his collaborators always received first class treatment and fair payment, and she firmly insisted that the group would never play for segregated audiences. Together, the duo worked to lobby strongly for the rights of African American artists at a time when jazz musicians were regularly exploited by many branches of the entertainment industry.

What is involved in a career spent managing one musician? With Pitt’s 2015 acquisition of Garner’s professional and private papers, the jazz community has been provided a rare opportunity to peer into the intimacies of this professional relationship. This student-curated exhibit examines Glaser’s relationship with her only client through rare materials curated from the collection. Private letters, personal photographs, and objects on display for the first-time illuminate the at-times tumultuous, often humorous, but always team-oriented relationship between Glaser and Garner. 

The opening will include remarks by Michael Heller, Assistant Professor of Music and Edward Galloway, Head of University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center and along with exhibit curators Billy D. Scott, Jeffrey Weston, and Miriam Meislik.

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