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George Shearing

For a long stretch of time in the 1950s and early '60s, George Shearing had one of the most popular jazz combos on the planet -- so much so that, in the usual jazz tradition of distrusting popular success, he tended to be underappreciated. Shearing's main claim to fame was the invention of a unique quintet sound, derived from a combination of piano, vibraphone, electric guitar, bass, and drums. Within this context, Shearing would play in a style he called "locked hands," which he picked up and refined from Milt Buckner's early-'40s work with the Lionel Hampton band, as well as Glenn Miller's sax section and the King Cole Trio. Stating the melody on the piano with closely knit, harmonized block chords, with the vibes and guitar tripling the melody in unison, Shearing sold tons of records for MGM and Capitol in his heyday.

The wild success of this urbane sound obscures Shearing's other great contribution during this time, for he was also a pioneer of exciting, small-combo Afro-Cuban jazz in the '50s. Indeed, Cal Tjader first caught the Latin jazz bug while playing with Shearing, and the English bandleader also employed such esteemed congueros as Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, and Armando Peraza. As a composer, Shearing was best known for the imperishable, uniquely constructed bop standard "Lullaby of Birdland," as well as "Conception" and "Consternation." His solo style, though all his own, reflected the influences of the great boogie-woogie pianists and classical players, as well as those of Fats Waller, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, and Bud Powell -- and fellow pianists long admired his light, refined touch. He was also known to play accordion and sing in a modest voice on occasion.

Shearing, who was born blind, began playing the piano at the age of three, receiving some music training at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London as a teenager but picking up the jazz influence from Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller 78s. In the late '30s, he started playing professionally with the Ambrose dance band and made his first recordings in 1937 under the aegis of fellow Brit Leonard Feather. He became a star in Britain, performing for the BBC, playing a key role in the self-exiled Stéphane Grappelli's London-based groups of the early '40s, and winning seven consecutive Melody Maker polls before emigrating in New York City in 1947 at the prompting of Feather. Once there, Shearing quickly absorbed bebop into his bloodstream, replacing Garner in the Oscar Pettiford Trio and leading a quartet in tandem with Buddy DeFranco. In 1949, he formed the first and most famous of his quintets, which included Marjorie Hyams on vibes (thus striking an important blow for emerging female jazz instrumentalists), Chuck Wayne on guitar, John Levy on bass, and Denzil Best on drums. Recording briefly first for Discovery, then Savoy, Shearing settled into lucrative associations with MGM (1950-1955) and Capitol (1955-1969), the latter for which he made albums with Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee, and Nat King Cole. He also made a lone album for Jazzland with the Montgomery Brothers (including Wes Montgomery) in 1961, and began playing concert dates with symphony orchestras.

After leaving Capitol, Shearing began to phase out his by-then-predictable quintet, finally breaking it up in 1978. He started his own label, Sheba, which lasted for a few years into the early '70s -- and made some trio recordings for MPS later in the decade. In the '70s, his profile had been lowered considerably, but upon signing with Concord in 1979, Shearing found himself enjoying a renaissance in all kinds of situations. He made a number of acclaimed albums with Mel Tormé, raising the singer's profile in the process, and recorded with the likes of Ernestine Anderson, Jim Hall, Marian McPartland, Hank Jones, and classical French horn player Barry Tuckwell. He also recorded a number of solo piano albums where his full palette of influences came into play. He signed with Telarc in 1992 and from that point through the early 2000s continued to perform and record, most often appearing in a duo or trio setting. Shearing, who had remained largely inactive since 2004 after a fall in his New York City apartment, died of congestive heart failure at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital on February 14, 2011. He was 91. ~ Richard S. Ginell
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Music To Hear

1. Taking A Chance On Love

2. The Summer Knows

3. Children's Waltz

4. Change Partners

5. Wave

6. What Kind Of Fool Am I

7. Love Story

8. Dream Dancing

9. I Predict

10. This Is All I Ask

11. Beautiful Love

12. Alfie

x

Track List: George Shearing: The Very Best

1. Midnight In The Air

2. Have You Met Miss Jones

3. Cuban Love Song

4. Folks Who Live On The Hill

5. Pawn Ticket

6. Cheek To Cheek

7. Kinda Cute

8. September In The Rain

9. Estampa Cubana

10. Ship Without A Sail

12. Laura

13. Lullaby Of Birdland

14. One Note Samba

15. Promises, Promises

x

Track List: Like Fine Wine

1. Giant Steps

2. All Too Soon

3. You And The Night And The Music

4. Who Can I Turn To?

5. Moon Ray

6. Tricrotism

7. Welcome To My Dream

8. Lullaby In Rhythm

9. So Rare

10. Moose The Mooche

11. When Lights Are Low

12. Why Did I Choose You?

13. Con Alma

14. The End Of A Love Affair

x

Track List: Lullabies Of Birdland: A Musical Autobiography

Disc 1

1. September In The Rain

2. Lullaby Of Birdland

3. Mambo Inn

4. Darn That Dream

5. Heart And Soul

6. For Every Man There's A Woman

7. Too Late Now

8. Love For Sale

9. Alone Together

10. Emily

11. It Might As Well Be Spring

12. I Cover The Waterfront

Disc 2

1. Easy To Love

2. I've Got You Under My Skin

3. Lullaby Of Birdland

4. My Silent Love

5. There Is No Greater Love

6. New York, New York Medley: For Me And My Gal, Mack The Knife, Birth Of The Blues, Send A Little Love My Way, How High The Moon, New York, New York

7. Lullaby Of Birdland

8. Lonely Moments

9. Body And Soul

10. Blue Monk

11. You're My Everything

12. How Beautiful Is Night

13. Fly Me To The Moon

x

Track List: Duets

1. I Could Write A Book

2. I Hear A Rhapsody

3. Body And Soul

4. Lonely Moments

6. Alone Together

9. I'll Take Romance

10. You Don't Know What Love Is

11. Too Late Now

13. Emily

x

Track List: The Master Touch (Disc 1)

Disc 1

3. Don't Explain

4. Have You Met Miss Jones?

6. I Cover The Waterfront

11. It Had To Be You

12. For You

Disc 2

4. Emily

5. It Never Entered My Mind

6. Easy To Love

8. Prelude To A Kiss

10. East Of The Sun

11. Do I Love You

x

Track List: George Shearing Meets The Lion: The Original Quintet & Solos

1. September In The Rain

2. Good To The Last Bop

3. Bop, Look And Listen

4. You Are Too Beautiful (Piano Solo)

5. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

6. The Continental

7. Nothing But D. Best

8. Summertime (Piano Solo)

9. East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)

10. In A Chinese Garden Part 1

11. In A Chinese Garden Part 2

12. Conception

13. I'll Remember April

14. Little White Lies

15. Carnegie Horizons

16. Jumpin' With Symphony Sid

17. November Seascape

18. How's Trix?

19. Changing With The Times

20. Strolling

21. When Your Lover Has Gone

22. As Long As There's Music

23. Tenderly (Piano Solo)

x

Track List: That Shearing Sound

1. East Of The Sun

2. I Like To Recognize The Tune

3. I'll Never Smile Again

4. I Hear Music

5. Girl Talk

6. Autumn Serenade

7. Consternation

8. Stars In My Eyes

9. Strollin'

10. Very Early

11. Conception

12. Peace

13. Lullaby Of Birdland

x

Track List: I Hear A Rhapsody

1. Birdfeathers (Live)

2. Dreamsville (Live)

3. The End Of A Love Affair (Live)

4. Zingaro (Live)

5. The Duke (Live)

6. I Hear A Rhapsody (Live)

7. The Masquerade Is Over (Live)

8. Horizon (Live)

9. Just A Mood (Live)

10. Wail (Live)

11. Too Late Now (Live)

x

Track List: Gas Quartet Number Two

1. Just Imagine

2. Since You

3. Two For The Road

4. Cool House

5. Love For Sale

6. Some Time Ago

7. Vierd Blues

8. The Little Boat (O Barquinho)

9. Bide-A-Wee

x

Track List: Jazz Moments

1. Makin' Whoopee

2. What Is This Thing Called Love

3. What's New

4. Like Someone In Love

5. Heart Of Winter

6. Blues In 9/4

7. Symphony

8. When Sunny Gets Blue

9. Wonder Why

10. The Mood Is Mellow

11. Gone With The Wind

12. It Could Happen To You

Comments

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As many of us will say, "It's got to be Pres, Bird, Shearing or the Basie.
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ddddd48
Cosmo Covington. Mobile,Al
(Miss Music Hall of Fame 2012)

Played the Chez Joey in Biloxi, Ms 1959 with one of Sherings' musicians.
Loved George ever since.
He was the grestest.
Report as inappropriate
I miss him and his beautiful music�������
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hlore58
I have a few of his CD'S and love the relaxing, leisurely vibe of his music. Feels like we are having cocktails in a great NYC lounge!
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I love that album he did with Nat King Cole
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Beautiful, simply beautiful... . . L o n g live The Duke........ . . . d e f i n i t e l y a 5 star man........
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I heard that Shearing did not take is blindness too seriously sometimes. While at a NY night club having dinner with a friend the waiter asked George if he would like another cocktail. His reply... No thanks, I'm driving tonight. Nice to know he had a sense of humor to go with his immense talent.
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I love the way he uses the chords to accent the music in stead of the single note.
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George Shearing, as a solo artist could make it rain musical notes from heaven.
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The more I listen to George Shearing the better his music sounds. For me he is in the top 10 piano (jazz) players! Fantastic!!!
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jphoesman
My first favorite jazz piano player. Others joined him in my mind as favorite piano players - Brubeck, Nero, Peterson - but he was the first and I still come back to his sound and feel at home.
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samallenjr
I was listening to this while I was going to sleep and started to think of Umbrellas and Mary Poppins
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Nothing like listening to George Shearing at the Café Carlyle in NYC. I will cherish that forever.
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mdorfman75
first not fist
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*saw not say
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I fist say George Shearing play at Yoshi's in the East Bay way back in middle school with one of my best friends Niki Cheng and her dad Robert.
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milgorjon
George Shearing is an internationa l treasure.... a n d his early appreciation of Afro-Cuban music is never given enough credit...he brought some of their finest conga players the internationa l acclaim they deserved (though many think it was Cal Tjader...Cal was really introduced to Cuban music by Shearing. His sound is absolutely beautiful and his duets with Nancy Wilson are gems.
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I have been listening to George Shearing music since the 60s, it has brought me such joy all these years, and will till I die. My lively hood has been driving a truck for 40 yrs., and it is so enjoyable. Thank you George.
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What a tender piano player he was! So relaxing and so hip!!!!
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Had the great pleasure of attending a small personal concert with Mel Torme accompanied by Shearing at the Fairmont in San Francisco in the late '60s..
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Absolutely gorgeous ! The Steinway is so perfect with Shearing's touch. How glorious indeed!
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he also had a pbs series called jazz meets the clasics
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My teen years had the honour to have George Shearing in my early life. I came to feel he and his blindness and his talent was a spiritual gift to us all.
Being British I was so proud to call him a fellow countryman.
Report as inappropriate
Kiss your hand
Say your crush's name
Close hand
Say a school day
Open hand
Post this on 15 other songs and your crush will ask u out
Report as inappropriate
Definitely one of great ones in the lineage of Jazz pianists. Remarkable distinctive personal touch, sound and style.
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My fiancé went to the California School for the Blind when George Sheering was popular, and once Mr. Sheering performed there and threatened to leave if the students didn't yell and whistle after the superintende n t told them not said they couldn't make much noise. :)
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Why did all these talented artists have to leave us.....
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genesilvers_ 1
george shering, was a nyc jaZZ GREAT, VILLAGE VANGUARD, PLUS ALL THE JOINTS ON 52ST LIKE APETER NERO
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Colorful balls all covered with string, these are some of my favorite things...
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He is classic jazz...he takes me to the Sheraton Palace in SF inside MAXFIELD'S (Maxfield Parrish) BAR with a progression of GIN martinis, olives and onions!
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The Very Best!!!!!!
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tburges10 He wrote music so that on could see pictures with your ears
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gerrymcd1936
Love the man! If you like his music tune in to Eddie Higgins.
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techwriterii i
George Shearing is a cornerstone of soulful jazz piano. I have enjoyed his music since the '50s. May it last forever. Miss you George.
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schapman6246
Add Lewis, Chesnut and Merryweather .
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dave33557
Shearing, Garner, Peterson. That about covers it.
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George Shearing came to the University of Oklahoma in the middle 50's and I had the opportunity to visit with him backstage. I still remember that conversation to this day. Among the many things we talked about was his sightlessnes s . He told me that prisoners on death row had even offered their eyes to him many times but him being able to see would be like me going blind. He was a gentle man, a unique talent and his music will continue to be enjoyed long after most of us have left the planet
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I was raised on George Shearing's music. Can remember sitting in our dining room by the victrola just loving his music. Saw him when I could during the later years (I was born in 1937) at different venues. The best was at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington. My most favorite song of his is I'll Remember April. Knowing he was coming I sent a letter addressed to him at the Grand Opera House asking him to consider playing that at his concert. About half way thru, with only George and the bass
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I first heard George in 1950 when I was a student at the Morningside College Conservatory of Music in Sioux City, Iowa. His recording of September in the Rain was on the jukebox in a local cafe. I fell in love with the sound and played it constantly, NEVER dreaming that nine years later I would be performing and recording with him. I was the tuba player in the Shearing Satin Brass group. We performed first at Basin Street East in NYC with Cannonball and Nat Adderley as featured soloists.
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Another stroll down memory lane. I gave a complete set of Shearing albums (vinyl) to my husband for a wedding present in 1957.
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2 thumbs up!
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mkellywa9ynj
This tune is called Carnegie Horizons, not Conception.. .
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Saw/heard him up close at Birdland in '54 around Christmas on my way overseas during the Korean conflict. What a gas! Not much fun being a draftee shipping out when you're a peace loving music loving piano playing student. Talk about a jazz latin oasis treat. I fell for Shearing again. Used to catch Cal Tjader on 1st St in E.LA in the '50's too.
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Reminds me of the good old days when music reached your soul.
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I LOVE THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET.
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TO DAVID KOS: CAN PURCHASE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET-LATI N ESCAPADES (AUDIO IMPORT) BUY NEW $35.44 OR (VINYL FORMAT) ON AMAZON.COM. HOPE INFORMATION HELPS.
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ALONG WITH OSCAR PETERSON AND BILL EVANS, GEORGE SHEARING IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE JAZZ PIANISTS.
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Good George!
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NinaWolf
jazz pianist and have almost everything he recorded. R.I.P. your were so loved.
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NinaWolf
IWe went to Basin Street to see my beloved George Shearing. I'm a
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