- September in the Rain
- East of the Sun
- I’ll Remember April
- Geneva’s Move
- Pick Yourself Up
- I’ll Be Around
- You’re Driving Me Crazy
- Lullaby of Birdland
- Love is Just Around the Corner
- Mambo Inn
- Memories of You
- Senor Blues
- You Came a Long Way from St Louis
- Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid
- The Nearness of You
- What is this Thing Called love?
- Over the Rainbow.
The very first LP record I ever bought was a 10-inch
vinyl by the George Shearing Quintet, which was in about 1952. I have
been an avid Shearing fan ever since and so this record covering George’s
career from 1949 to 1963 was very welcome. To me George personifies
quality music, there is never anything ugly in his playing and his
harmonic sense is extraordinary. Over the years many people have tried
to copy the Quintet sound without realising what a daunting task that
is. Using the same instrumentation won’t work September In the Rain
and all the other quintet classics have an amazing use of timing and
harmonics to produce a unique sound, almost impossible to imitate.
On this record tracks 1 to 8 are of the original quintet with Marjorie
Hyams on vibes, Chuck Wayne on guitar John Levy on bass and Denzil
Best on drums. Don Elliot replaces Marjorie Hyams on track 8. Tenderly
is the exception, this being an exquisite piano solo from George.
The warm and swinging voice of Billy Eckstine is
heard on track 09, which is followed by George’s most famous composition
Lullaby of Birdland. It is probably now more famous than the Love
Me or Leave Me sequence on which it’s based. Love is Just Around the
Corner introduces Cal Tjader on vibes and Toots Tielman on guitar
and an extra layer of complexity to the quintet sound. Mambo Inn has
George Devens on vibes and brings the first latin jazz to the record.
George plays another amazing piano solo on Memories
of You, shades of all sorts of people here, definitely Tatum and probably
some Peterson, but the unique Shearing style comes through. There
have been many players who may swing harder, but few with the taste
and harmonic feel of Shearing. On Senor Blues the latin rhythm is
over loud and it spoiled my enjoyment of this particular track. George
himself introduces Caravan and Toots Thielman changes from guitar
to harmonica, the balance is much better on this track from a concert
in 1958 in Claremont, California. Caravan is modal in construction,
although the Duke wrote it along time ago, but then he was always
ahead of his time. Jordu makes the group sound almost like The Modern
Jazz Quartet until the solos start with guitar, which they never used.
This is a nice version of the Duke Jordan tune that was a stock number
in the library of most jazz combos of the time.
The immediately recognisable voice of Peggy Lee is
heard on track 17, Peggy was always very critical of her accompanying
group, but I feel sure she was more than satisfied on this occasion.
After some fascinating improvisations on the blues with Symphony Sid,
the next track has another guest vocalist, this time Nancy Wilson.
This is taken from the CD ‘The Swingin’s Mutual’, a record I have
not heard, but after this sampler I am looking out for. This track
was too short; I could have done with more than one chorus from this
What Is This Thing has George in the trio format
that he has often used more recently and he has also recorded with
a duo, by 1962 he was able to hold an audience in the palm of his
hand without having too many other people involved. The last track
however takes us into familiar quintet territory, this time with Gary
Burton on vibes, who has gone on to be a leader in contemporary music,
although his contribution on this track is not overly significant.
If like me you’re a Shearing fan, then this is for
you. If you haven’t listened carefully to his work, buy this you will
have a pleasant surprise!