Arv Garrison (g, vcl), Vivien Garry (b, vcl), Teddy Kaye, George Handy, Wini Beatty (p, vcl), Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Howard McGhee, Teddy Buckner (tp), Vic Dickenson, Kai Winding (tb), Earle Spencer (tb, dir), Charlie Parker, Les Robinson (as), Lucky Thompson, Teddy Edwards, Charlie Ventura (ts), Dodo Marmarosa, Hal Schaefer, Leonard Feather, Sonny White, El Myers (p), Lionel Hampton (vib), Barney Kessel, Irving Ashby, Les Paul, Tony Rizzi, Gene Sargent (g), Ray Brown, Vic McMillan, Thomas Moultree, Bob Kesterson (b), Roy Hall, Stan Levey, Harold “Doc” West, Percy Brice, Ed Hall, Phil Kraus (d), Frankie Laine, Leo Watson, Rickey Jordan, Babs Gonzales (vcl)
Bar code: 8427328611046
THE UNKNOWN ARV GARRISON
Wizard of the Six String · Classic and Rare Recordings from the 1940's
3-CD Box Set · 80-Pages Booklet
Arv Garrison is relatively unknown today. His professional recording career spanned three years after the end of WWII. A majority of that legacy was with the Vivien Garry Trio. The Trio’s first recordings for Guild and Sarco demonstrated Arv’s phenomenal mastery of the electric guitar. He was on several Dial sessions led by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Howard McGhee, but his presence on these recordings is sparse due to the short duration of 78 singles.
Vivien and Arv were on sessions for Signature and Exclusive where they were part of the ensembles backing Leo Watson and Rickey Jordan respectively. Arv plays rhythm backup with occasional solo breaks on these vocalist sessions where his ability to adapt and swing in different musical settings demonstrated his versatility. Arv was hired by Earle Spencer to compose a piece for his orchestra featuring five harmonized guitars. “Five Guitars in Flight” on Black & White 822 remained Arv’s proudest achievement of his recording career.
His most accomplished performances were recorded for the Armed Forces Radio Service on “Jubilee” and “Magic Carpet” transcriptions that were heard by service personnel around the world, but not in the U.S. Likewise, the air checks included in this set were broadcasts on Los Angeles and New York City radio stations but not recorded for commercial release.
Arv Garrison suffered from epilepsy. He was able to perform despite the occasional seizures that his trio mates noticed during their time in California. The seizures became more frequent and pronounced when the Vivien Garry Trio returned to New York.
Arv’s earlier playing had displayed his exceptional gift to communicate commands requiring milliseconds from his brain to his fingers. Epilepsy robbed that facility. Arv’s peers like his close friend, Irving Ashby, continued their performance and recording careers, the essential elements to creating and sustaining an awareness in the minds of jazz fans. His sparse outings on record failed to establish that same recognition. His name disappeared from the jazz polls. Arv Garrison remains mostly unknown among today’s jazz public.
—James A. Harrod
Selected in the CADENCE MAGAZINE Critics Poll (annual print edition)
as one of the Top Ten albums of 2021
"In the ’40s, Garrison recorded with bebop legends Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Besides his own group, he was one-third of the Vivien Garry Trio with his bassist wife. And he wrote and recorded one of the earliest orchestrated multi-guitar pieces, featuring himself alongside Barney Kessel, Irving Ashby, Gene Sargent, and Tony Rizzi, who later adopted the concept for his Five Guitars recordings.
So how come Garrison is so obscure? It’s not because of his home base of Toledo, Ohio, which fostered several jazz greats. And it’s certainly not due to his facility on guitar –on awesome display on the three discs that comprise this collection. But in the accompanying 76-page booklet, the story unfolds.
The Garry Trio, featuring Vivien singing a la Billie Holiday and ensemble “shout” vocals in the style of Nat “King” Cole’s group, was popular but not a household name. More telling was Garrison’s mental illness and epilepsy. He became erratic on the bandstand and died in 1960, just 37, when he drowned due to a seizure while swimming.
Three CDs containing 66 tracks may seem excessive, but particularly with Nick Rossi’s exhaustive liner notes, this is an important chunk of jazz guitar history."
—Dan Forte (June, 2022)
Vintage Guitar Magazine
"Some of us reviewers have recently discussed the inexplicable lack of promotion and advertising by that fine Spanish reissue label, Fresh Sounds/Blue Moon and, while trawling their site for other unknown and unheralded gems. I managed to turn up this fantastic production; a three CD boxset with a phenomenal 76-page book
telling the story of obscure but brilliant Toledo-born jazz (swing/bebop) guitarist, Arv Garrison and his complete recordings from 1945-48, including radio broadcasts and V-Discs.
The full-colour book is stunning with copious photos and label shots and a full
sessionography. When you consider that Arv died in 1960, before his 38th birthday, the detective work by writer James Harrod and Toledo jazz historian Bob Dietsche is nothing short of remarkable. With sessions backing Diz, Bird and Howard McGhee, anyone with an interest in early electric jazz/swing guitar should be aware of this fine release. The set also includes the copious recordings made under Arv’s main gig as guitarist with the West Coast based Vivien Garry Trio, including those made backing the likes of Frankie Laine, Leo Watson, Wini Beatty and, joy of joys, the obscure, teenaged, white jump-blues singer, Rickey Jordan, who recorded six sides for Leon Rene's Exclusive Records in 1946, all of which are, naturally, featured here."
—Dave Penny (February, 2022)
Blue & Rhythm Magazine, UK
"Ask a jazz enthusiast about electric-guitar masters of the 1940s and they will likely mention Charlie Christian, Les Paul, Barney Kessel and maybe Irving Ashby. Arv Garrison? Less likely. And yet he was one of the most accomplished and inventive all-round musicians of the period on the instrument. Listen to any of the tracks on these three CDs for proof.
There is perhaps no better example than CD1 here where he is featured in support and occasionally soloing on eight Dial tracks by the Charlie Parker septet. Ornithology, Yardbird Suite and A Night In Tunisia are prominent, along with four alternate takes. Parker met Garrison at a small LA Club in 1946 and they played together before Bird requested the guitarist for this record date. You can also hear him blowing up a guitar storm on a 1946 Howard McGhee sextet date in Hollywood: six sterling bop tracks feature Garrison alongside Howard, Teddy Edwards, Dodo Marmarosa, and drummer Roy Porter.
Other highlights on CD2 include two tracks featuring Barney Kessel, Irving Ashby, Les Paul and Arv in a guitar quartet from an Armed Forces Jubilee Show broadcast in October 1946. They stretch to a five-guitar choir on Five Guitars In Flight with backing by a stratospheric trumpet outing by Al Killian and the Earl Spencer Orchestra of the time.
However, mostly in this set you hear the billowing sounds of Arv Garrison’s guitar in the Vivien Garry Trio where he spent most of his musical life. Vivien was the bass-player leader, and the piano duties were shared by Wini Beatty and later El Myers, who also functioned as vocalist. Garrison and Garry were married, and the story goes that she persuaded him to teach her to play bass so that they could form the trio and play together. It worked well and for a brief moment the trio, with Arv’s strikingly effective, often blazing guitar solos, became famous.
There are also four tracks on CD2 where Garrison backs vocalist Rickey Jordan and provides some attractive blues lines behind the singer. ABC Blues, Blues In The Storm and Rickey’s Blues are all standouts and prove that Arv was most comfortable, not to mention inventive, in that format. The Blues In B Flat track features the never to be forgotten Babs Gonzalez and his Three Bips And A Bop lineup – bop scat unbridled.
The reason for the comparatively short life of the Garry trio was Arv’s epilepsy which caused him to have blackouts. It gradually began to happen more and more onstage. Vivien found it all too much and left to look after her ailing father in California. Arv Garrison headed back to his hometown, Toledo, and died 30 July 1960 after he had gone swimming in a quarry. This three-record set reminds us just how good a bop guitar player he was."
—Derek Ansell (January 30, 2022)
"Anonymity is an inescapable reality for the vast majority of musicians. Even those relative few who cross over into the public consciousness are likely destined for an eventual return to obscurity. Odds are that many listeners familiar with bebop have heard Arv Garrison even if they’ve never heard of him. A Toledo native, he was a pickup plectrist on seminal sessions by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for the Dial label in 1946. Dates with trumpeter Howard McGhee, trombonist Vic Dickenson, modernist pianist George Handy and orchestra leader Earle Spencer furthered his portfolio, but Garrison’s principle performing and recording outlet was with his wife Vivian. Wizard of the Six String tells their story through sound and print in lavish fashion across three CDs and thick 76-page book packed with essays, photos, album facsimiles, a detailed discography and meticulously organized ephemera.
A convergence of luck, talent, diligence and savvy marketing made Garrison something of a cynosure in mid-1940s bi-coastal jazz, fronting a working trio that took Nat King Cole’s popular precedence as template and infused it with the intrigue of bop velocity. The group quickly realized the novelty draw of Vivian, who had taken over the bass chair in the band with a flair-fueled charisma that was immediately appealing to audiences. Operating under the portmanteau of The Vivian Garry Trio they toured rigorously until Garrison’s epilepsy and the couple’s divorce curtailed the enterprise. Fortunately, stops to studios and radio air-shots were regular occurrences in the years prior, leaving an aural picture for posterity that’s further enhanced by Fresh Sound’s 24-bit remastering from surviving sources.
Garrison’s most immediate and indelible influence was Django Reinhardt. Picking and strumming an acoustic arch-top amplified with custom pickups he’s a minor wonder on swing-to-bop bridges like “Where You At?” and “Sonny Boy.” Vivian’s vivacious vocals and steady bull fiddle timekeeping are other winsome staples. The piano chair in the group was more variable, occupied for variable tenures by now-anonymous journeymen Teddy Kaye, Wini Beatty and El Myer. Also collected are some intriguing one-offs including an Armed Forces Radio airshot from October 1946 that combines Garrison with peers Barney Kessel, Irving Ashby and Les Paul in a round robin medley where he more than holds his own on a fleet rendering of “How High the Moon.” Another from the same month finds the guitarist trying his hand at Central Avenue-style jump blues with vocalist Rickey Jordan.
Not all of it sticks. A vocalese salad version of “Jingle Bells” from trying-to-hard hipster Leo Watson with moonlighting Leonard Feather on piano is only saved by some tasty trombone from the aforementioned Dickenson. Excepting a hot solo on “Snake Pit,” Garrison is largely relegated to rigid comping. And a promising conclave that includes errant bop pianist Dodo Marmarosa is similarly stymied by too much jam and not enough pectin in the form of collective practice. Garrison got around though and burned brightly during his erstwhile heyday. This extensive and reverential omnibus of his work gives his modest, but consistent legacy its overdue due."
—Derek Taylor (July 12, 2021)
"As a Critic for Downbeat Magazine, every year I get a form to fill out in which to judge the “Best Of” in every category. Every year, when it comes to “Best Label of the Year”, I have to write in the name Fresh Sound Records, because they never include it in the list of labels to choose. Someday, they will get the message.
This 3 disc boxed set (with an incredible book listing the sessions and history) is a perfect example of the importance of Fresh Sound Records.
Have you ever heard of the guitarist Arv Garrison? I’m willing to bet big money the answer is “No”, but you have actually listened to sessions that he’s been on, ignoring his name in the session notes. For example, did you know he was the guitar soloist on Charlie Parkers’ classic Dial sessions from 1946 that included “Moose the Mooche”, “Yardbird Suite”, “Ornithology” and “A Night In Tunisia”? Yep, that’s the guy.
Got your attention, didn’t I?
While spending most of his life in the swinging town of Toledo Ohio, Garrison married bassist Vivien Garry and formed a trio in the mold of Nat “King” Cole, with similar hip harmonies, jivey lyrics and the hubby/guitarist laying out licks in Oscar Moore fashion. The team swings with joy on pieces like “Altitude” and bops thill they drop on “Where You At?” when drummer Roy Hall joins the team with pianist George Handy or Teddy Kaye. Wife Vivien oozes out lyrics on “I Surrender Dear” and the team digs dep on “Tonsilectomy”. A pre-Rawhide Frankie Lane croons on a hip “It Only Happens Once” and on the Armed Forces Radio Service/Jubilee Show the team gets hep on “Where You At” and “It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That”.
As far as the Parker sides, it’s fasincating listen to these songs and not focus on Bird-hey, this guy can play! A 1946 gig at the Club Morocco in Hollywood with Wini Beatty at the piano has the team rip through “How High The Moon”, guaranteed to win a bet on a Blindfold Test, and the Leo Watson sounding like Eddie Jefferson on the vocal pop of “Jingle Bells”, “Snake Pit” and the hilariously non-PC “Tight and Gay”.
A real tour de force happens with Garrison teams up on one of the Jubilee shows and jams with fellow ax grinders Barney Kessel, Irving Ashby and Les Paul as they take turns on a bop medley including “Cherokee” and “How High the Moon”. ARE YOU INTERESTED YET?!?
The last but not least disc has the trio of Garry, Beatty and Garrison in perfect Cole fashion on “Mop Mop” befoe a sizzling “Saturday Night Swing Session” from WNEW (from Sunset and Vine, stated by the emcee) with Garry in Holiday fashion on a drop dead gorgeous “Lover Man” and the team swinging from the trees on “Indiana”. Vocalist Babs Gonzalez does some Slim Gillard jive work on “Blues in B Flat”, but the best is set for (almost) last, as Garrison joins in with Lionel Hampton, Charlie Ventura and Kai Winding for a volcanic read of “Flying Home”. If that isn’t interesting enough, you then have vocalist El Meyers sounding a lot like Jackie Paris on hip swing on “You Can Do It If You Try” and “New Love”.
If you don’t ask yourself (like I did), “Where has this guy been?!?” then maybe you should switch from being a jazz fan to something like macrame. This is IT!"
—George W. Harris (July 5, 2021)
"Arv Garrison (1922-1960) was briefly in the spotlight but had a tragically brief life and career. An excellent forward-looking electric guitarist who was influenced by Django Reinhardt, Oscar Moore, Les Paul, and bebop, Garrison is best-remembered today, if at all, for his participation on a Charlie Parker session that resulted in the original versions of “Ornithology” and “Yardbird Suite.” Otherwise, he mostly worked with a trio led by his wife bassist Vivian Garry, often in the Los Angeles area. An epileptic from an early age, Garrison’s condition became much worse by the late 1940s, resulting in his complete obscurity, divorce, inability to play music, and death.
The three-CD set from Fresh Sound called The Unknown Arv Garrison – Wizard Of The Six String has nearly all of his recordings, just leaving out four titles with Garry from 1945, ten songs with Buddy Baker’s orchestra (1946-1947), and three big band titles from Oct. 15, 1946 with Ralph Burns and George Handy. Garrison does not solo on the big band pieces and might not be that prominent on the other dates.
The Fresh Sound box gives one as full a picture of the guitarist as possible. Except for one session on which the guitarist does not appear, all of the recordings, V-discs and radio appearances by the Vivien Garry Trio/Quartet are here including many rarities. The group, which along the way had Teddy Kaye, George Handy, or the legendary Wini Beatty on piano along with an occasional drummer, started out as a King Cole Trio-inspired band with occasional group vocals, playing hot swing. As they progressed, it became a bit more bop-oriented and developed its own musical personality. In addition to being featured on their own, the Vivien Garry group is heard welcoming such guests as singers Frankie Laine, Rickey Jordan, and Babs Gonzalez and, on a jam session version of “Flying Home,” Lionel Hampton, Charlie Ventura, and Kai Winding.
Also included on this worthy release are Garrison’s appearances on a Dizzy Gillespie session (“Diggin’ Diz”), the Charlie Parker date, sessions led by scat-singer Leo Watson and trumpeter Howard McGhee, one number with Earle Spencer’s Orchestra, and two final dates from 1948 that, although by the Vivien Garry Trio, were the only sessions issued under Garrison’s name. Still just 25, the latter dates (which find the guitarist sounding quite advanced for the time) were largely the premature end of his career.
Extensive liner notes by Nick Rossi and a definitive article about Garrison’s life written by Bob Dietsche in 1989 are included in the set’s 78-page booklet, augmenting the timeless if mostly little-known music. Taken as a whole, this very worthy release gives listeners all of the known details about the Arv Garrison story."
—Scott Yanow (July, 2021)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"For a brief, shining moment in the mid 1940s, Toledo native Arv Garrison was considered one of the best jazz guitarists in the world. A Toledo resident for most of his life, Garrison was a musician whose adept six string play made him the envy of many in the music community. He recorded with legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and regularly performed and recorded with his wife, Vivien Garry.
“He was really an astonishing talent,” said musical historian James Harrod. “Largely self-taught, (Garrison) admired Django Reinhardt and would spend his time practicing his guitar and listening to Django. And the person who helped really launch his career was his wife, Vivien Garry. She was the one who took charge of their career and signed all the contracts and made the arrangements, etc. And Arv just blossomed under those conditions.”
One of Garrison’s trademarks was his versatility— no matter what the style was of the group he played with, he was able to rise and bend his skill to accommodate the moment. On a level of sheer talent, Harrod ranks Harrison in a class with celebrated jazz guitarists like Irving Ashby and Oscar Moore.
Today, however, the name Arv Garrison is all but forgotten. His career as a full-time musician was tragically brief.
“The shame is that he had epilepsy, and that intensified in the latter part of his career,” Harrod said. “Today, modern medicine can allow us to cope with that condition. But back then, in the 40s, it was the end of his career when the epileptic fits became more frequent. It was a very short career— 1945 to 1948. Just three years that he really blossomed and became one of the best.”
Garrison returned to Toledo after his sojourn through the jazz world. He tried to play in local gigs, but his illness had progressed too far. Garrison died in a swimming accident in 1960 at the age of 37. His jazz career was so firmly in the past by then that his obituary’s headline didn’t even mention it.
But Garrison’s musical legacy is beginning to be rediscovered, thanks in large part to Harrod. A former professional bookseller, Harrod has been a fan of jazz since high school, primarily specializing in West Coast jazz. Last year, Harrod was listening to a celebration of legendary jazz composer and saxophonist Charlie Parker. One of the songs featured Garrison, a name that even Harrod, an expert in most everything jazz, was only vaguely familiar with.
“That sort of led me to Vivien Garry, and to a book she published, a biography, back in the early 90s, recounting her life and playing with Arv,” Harrod said.
Harrod determined that Garrison’s remarkable work needed to be collected, preserved and made more widely available. He began tracking down as many recordings as he could. He found sessions that Garrison and Garry made in New York in the mid-40’s. Recordings done for the Armed Forces Radio Network. A performance for a show led by popular jazz host Art Ford.
“I contacted a record producer in Barcelona, Fresh Sound Records— a man named Jordi Pujol, who’s been championing forgotten music, West Coast music for years. And Jordi said, ‘Yeah, I think you’ve got a good project there, let’s go with it!’”
The end result is a 3 CD set entitled “The Unknown Arv Garrison: Wizard of the Six String.” Featuring a slew of material that hasn’t been heard since its initial release almost 80 years ago, the set features liner notes by band leader Nick Rossi. The work is a labor of love for Harrod, and he notes that it’s not just Garrison’s legacy that will interest Toledo listeners.
The last sessions on the CD set feature another Toledo musician who was quite revered, El Meyers. He was a pianist who played with the group in New York, and toward the end of Arv’s career they did some things for a label called Metro, which have never been available on CD. So the set includes a lot of music that, up to this point, has just been available on 78s, or not at all."
—Jeff McGinnis (June 1, 2021)