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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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GEORGE SHEARING

Lullaby of Birdland

Retrospective RTS 4178

 

 


CD1
1. Lullaby Of Birdland
2. Stomp In F
3. Squeezin' The Blues
4. The Sheik Of Araby
5. Missouri Scrambler
6. Dinah
7. Delayed Action
8. Jump For Joy
9. Champagne
10. More Than You Know
11. Rosetta
12. A Ghost Of A Chance
13. Five Flat Flurry
14. Trunk Call
15. It's Easy To Remember
16. Have You Met Miss Jones?
17. Bop's Your Uncle
18. Consternation
19. Poinciana
20. Cherokee
21. Bebop's Fables
22. Sorry, Wrong Rhumba
23. Moon Over Miami
24. The Continental
25. Summertime
26. September In The Rain

CD2
1. East Of The Sun
2. Conception
3. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
4. I'll Remember April
5. Jumpin' With Symphony Sid
6. Little White Lies
7. Roses Of Picardy
8. Pick Yourself Up
9. I'll Be Around
10. Taking A Chance On Love
11. How High The Moon
12. Love Is Just Around The Corner
13. Mambo Inn
14. The Folks Who Live On The Hill
15. If I Should Lose You
16. Stella By Starlight
17. If
18. Serenata
19. Sand In My Shoes
20. Mambo No.2
21. Moonlight Becomes You
22. Do I Love You, Do I?
23. Isn't It Romantic?
24. Always True To You In My Fashion
25. Satin Doll
26. The Nearness Of You

 

Jazz fans all over the world mourned when the son of Cockney parents from the east end of London died in February. Blind from birth, pianist George Shearing became one of Britain's most famous exports to the USA when he emigrated there in 1947. That was where he created the unforgettable - and very original - "Shearing sound": harmonising piano, guitar and vibraphone into a distinctively engaging and very popular sound.

This extremely useful tribute on a double CD covers his early years, including many of the recordings he made in Britain before he invented that intriguing sound. These British recordings often tend to be overlooked but they show that Shearing was a considerable talent as early as 1939, when he was nearly 20. These include Squeezin' The Blues, in which he displayed his dexterity on the accordion, his second instrument.

The collection begins with Lullaby of Birdland, of which he said "I have been credited with writing 300 songs. 299 enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here is the other one". He was being over-modest, as many of his compositions are remembered, although Lullaby of Birdland has become the best established jazz standard.

George is also heard playing piano solos and with Hatchett's Swingtette, as well as with St‚phane Grappelli, Harry Parry, and his own small groups. Outstanding among these recordings are the early (1941) Missouri Scrambler and Jump For Joy which prove George's talent for stride piano and boogie-woogie; Five Flat Flurry and Trunk Call, which include two of Britain's foremost musicians: Kenny Baker and Harry Hayes; and a pair made with just bass and drums in London in 1948: the standard Poinciana and George's own memorable composition Consternation.

The unique sound of the Shearing Quintet arrives in 1949, although it is hard to understand why the tracks are not arranged chronologically. This puts September In The Rain (the song that brought many people's attention to the Shearing sound) after some other, later tunes. But there is a good selection of the Quintet's recordings, including such favourites as East of the Sun, the beboppish Conception, the imaginative Pick Yourself Up, and Billy Eckstine adding his vocals to Taking A Chance On Love. I can still remember affectionately the 78rpm discs that my father bought of all these recordings as they were released on the yellow MGM label.

The Quintet's personnel changed many times but its sound remained basically the same until at least 1959, when Peggy Lee made a classic album with the group, including the gorgeous Do I Love You, Do I? This generous double album ends with the Shearing ensemble accompanying another singer - Nancy Wilson - in The Nearness of You.

Of course, there was plenty more to Shearing's career after 1960, perhaps most notably his recordings with Nat "King" Cole and Mel Torm‚ and his duets with Brian Torff. George was not only a marvellous pianist but a lovable and humorous man, and he will be much missed.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk

See also review by Jonathan Woolf

 



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