Arv Garrison

The Unknown Wizard Of The Six-String

In the ’40s, Arv 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, why is Garrison so obscure? It’s not because of his home base of Toledo, 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 à 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.

This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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