Monday, February 14, 2011

George Shearing (1919-2011)

At the age of 91, pianist Sir George Shearing has passed away. May he rest in peace. In addition to his formidable talents a modern jazz piano player, he was responsible for introducing such names as Don Elliott, Denzil Best, Cal Tjader, Toots Thielemans, and Armando Perazza to the record buying public at large due to his successful string of records on MGM and Capital during the 1940s and 1950s.

For a taste of the Shearing Sound, near the beginning of its life, dig these 1950 film recordings of his quintet featuring Chuck Wayne (guitar), Don Elliott (vibraphone), John Levy (bass), and Denzil Best (drums) just burning in the coolest manner possible through 4 tunes. Elliott recently had replaced original Quintet vibraphonist Marjie (aka "Margie") Hyams. Levy would soon leave to manage the group, to be replaced by Al McKibbon. Best, of course, was the composer of "Geneva's Move" (aka "Move") as well as numerous other early bop tunes. And what can one say about guitarist, Chuck Wayne? Nimble, inventive, and fluid. It's music like that that continues to inspire me to practice my craft!

Side Note: most references to these clips claim they are soundies made to be viewed in bars and nightclubs on Panorams, but the fact that they were filmed in 1950 dispute that claim. It is more likely that they were meant to be shown in movie houses in between feature length films. Regardless, the Jazz on Film site reports that there is a 5th song out there from the same session, "I'll Never Smile Again". Let's hope it surfaces some time soon.

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