All that jazz: Jazz legend Erroll Garner’s estate donates papers to Pitt


Erroll Garner, Pittsburgh native and legendary jazz pianist, had to use a phone book to reach the piano keys.

At five-foot-two, Garner had to prop himself up to play. Now, Garner’s former assistant, Martha Glaser, has donated his papers, including the phone book he used to sit on, to Pitt’s University Library System, according to a release. After Garner passed away in 1977, Glaser assembled a collection of his professional materials — including performance contracts, correspondence, photographs, sheet music, awards, sound and video recordings and memorabilia. Students can now view that book and other memorabilia from Garner’s life in the University’s archives.

June 15 would have been Garner’s 94th birthday.

Garner was born in Pittsburgh in 1925 and by the age of seven was performing for KDKA Radio. In 1945 Garner hit it big with his song Serenade for Laura. But his legacy lives on most in a composition called Misty which popular singer Johnny Mathisreleased in 1959. Misty has been recorded and performed by various artists since Garner wrote the music for it in 1955.

Garner died in 1977 at age 55 and is buried at the Homewood Cemetery.

The collection highlights both “Garner and Glaser’s roles in removing racial barriers in the music industry and asserting artists’ rights,” according to the release.

Spokesperson for the Glaser Estate, Steven Smallowitz, is quoted in the release saying it’s “fitting” that Garner’s collection would settle in Pittsburgh, as the University is noted for its 45 year commitment to jazz studies, headed now by internationally acclaimed pianist Geri Allen.

Sony Legacy announced a new Garner album called The Complete Concert by the Sea co-produced by Allen.