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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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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.
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.
What a tender piano player he was! So relaxing and so hip!!!!
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..
Absolutely gorgeous ! The Steinway is so perfect with Shearing's touch. How glorious indeed!
he also had a pbs series called jazz meets the clasics
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.
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
Definitely one of great ones in the lineage of Jazz pianists. Remarkable distinctive personal touch, sound and style.
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. :)
Why did all these talented artists have to leave us.....
genesilvers_ 1
george shering, was a nyc jaZZ GREAT, VILLAGE VANGUARD, PLUS ALL THE JOINTS ON 52ST LIKE APETER NERO
Colorful balls all covered with string, these are some of my favorite things...
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!
The Very Best!!!!!!
gerrymcd1936
Love the man! If you like his music tune in to Eddie Higgins.
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.
schapman6246
Add Lewis, Chesnut and Merryweather .
dave33557
Shearing, Garner, Peterson. That about covers it.
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
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
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.
Another stroll down memory lane. I gave a complete set of Shearing albums (vinyl) to my husband for a wedding present in 1957.
2 thumbs up!
mkellywa9ynj
This tune is called Carnegie Horizons, not Conception.. .
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.
Reminds me of the good old days when music reached your soul.
I LOVE THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET.
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.
ALONG WITH OSCAR PETERSON AND BILL EVANS, GEORGE SHEARING IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE JAZZ PIANISTS.
Good George!
NinaWolf
jazz pianist and have almost everything he recorded. R.I.P. your were so loved.
NinaWolf
IWe went to Basin Street to see my beloved George Shearing. I'm a
hfozzy1
Lovelovelove the disc Two For the Road that he did with Carmen McRae - two masters at their best!!
A friend rushed into my house and told me about this fabulous new album from Georg Shearing. It was 'Latin Escapade' with songs including Poincianna et al. I bought the album and played it to death. I've been looking for another copy but no luck. Anyone know where I can get a copy?
Grew up with the Shearing sound starting in the 50s. Saw him and the quintet at the Embers in N.Y. Also AT Basin Street East in N.Y.
No one has come close to the great Shearing sound.
I hooked on to the Shearing sound in the late 40s and feel that he was a big part of my music education. I'm no jazz pianist but I was compelled to invent a "fake Shearing" arrangement of "White Christmas," with its tight chords. I feel like he's wrapped around me when I play it. Rest in Peace, George.
bobgjerde
I remember taking my wife to our first concert with the Shearing in Mnneapolis in the middle 50s'. Rest well my friend.
Just learned of George Shearing's passing. I remember going to hear him at the London House in Chicago during the late sixty's and early seventy's. It hard to believe we have lost two piano greats with Billy Taylor's passing in late December. May they both be doing duets together in heaven.
dgetz101
RIP George Shearing.
Grew up on Shearing's 'Satin' albums, Black & White. No other sound like the synchronized piano & vibes. As smooth as it gets.
I love listening to jazz - its so educational the artist are all top notch musicians and its truly an american art form.
George Shearing is such a versatile and talented pianist. He is a proven prodigy.
barbdambrosi o
Totally magnificent! !
Few pairings of musicians were as delicious as when George Shearing and Mel Torme got together. Which, happily, they did often, leaving lots of their collaboratio n s on record.
Love it! I feel like I am wrapped in a rhapsody of melodic velvet.
He's up there with the best! Never got the recognition he deserved.
So easy to enjoy. Brings back old memories.
Fantastic!
How my dad loved George Shearing. Listening from heaven these days.

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