George Shearing has never been one to be accused of playing too loud. His urbane sound of piano, vibraphone and guitar playing in unison made his records some of the most popular jazz albums of the '50s and '60s. But for those who acquired a taste for his brand of jazz, there was much beauty to be discovered beneath the genteel swing of "The Shearing Spell." And that is much the case for Like Fine Wine.
Performed in a sympathetic trio setting with Reg Schwager on guitar and long-time Shearing confidante Neil Swainson on bass, the selections here vacillate between the delicate melodicism for which Shearing is famous and the application of his sound to a diverse range of compositions. Clearly, the most unexpected song is a samba style version of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," which is remarkable in its harmonic conception and block chord execution by the grand old man. Beyond that, the precise execution of "Tricotism" shows how perfectly attuned Swainson and Schwager are with Shearing's conception, and it's a delight to hear them run the chords together. Schwager displays a deft touch on "You And The Night And The Music" and Swainson is exceptional throughout. For a deeper listen to Swainson's talents, keep an eye out for his excellent 1989 Concord Jazz release, 49th Parallel.
As for Shearing's playing, it's as if he's Peter Pan (whose setting was in Britain, after all). His clear articulation and virtuoso command of styles are still evident in a sprightly "The End Of A Love Affair" and a feather-fingered version of Bird's "Moose The Mooche." Of course, there is still the occasional sleepy-eyed ballad, but that's all part of the Shearing spell. And after 80-plus years, the old man can still put you under it.
Personnel: George Shearing: piano; Reg Schwager: guitar; Neil Swainson: bass.