In celebration of his eighty-first year, Telarc is releasing a tidy and organized package of George Shearing's work on the eight albums he has recorded on the label in the past eight years. Reflections is notable because it was carefully produced to compare Shearing's styles as it showcases his ultimate consistency and strengths. At the same time, the album serves as a reminder that Telarc has surrounded Shearing with a variety of formats, and he has recorded in a variety of configurations, inspiring different approaches to the tunes.
For example, from Shearing's solo piano album, My Favorite Things , sprung, obviously, "My Favorite Things," played in the upper octaves of the keyboard for a classical music-box effect. At the same time, the densely chorded and rubato treatment of Dave Brubeck's evocative "Summer Song" exists as a contrast and a complement.
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" from Shearing's Christmas album wittily starts with a replication of the famous "Take Five" vamp, seeming at first to be a steal rather than an alternative approach to a too-oft-sung carol that rarely varies in style, as if it were sacrosanct. It's not sacrosanct in Shearing's hands, and he seamlessly glides between 5/4 and 4/4 as choruses progress.
While the orchestral recordings from How Beautiful Is Night are perhaps the weakest on the album because of their blanketing of Shearing's sound, on the other hand, "Birdfeathers" and "Wail" from the album recorded live at the Blue Note, I Hear A Rhapsody , refer to Shearing's early bop sensibilities. At the age of seventy-two, Shearing performed with extraordinary vitality and grace energized by Neil Swainson and Grady Tate. Steve Nelson fills in on "Peace" and "Conception," reminding Shearing enthuasiasts of his classic locked-hands sound with vibraphonists like Margie Hyams and Gary Burton. The same talent for chorded melodic movement served Shearing well on his tribute to Nat "King" Cole, Paper Moon.
While listeners await Shearing's release of original material once again, Reflections represents an overview of his tenure with Telarc, and also of his long and influential career.
Birdfeathers; Straighten Up And Fly Right; Summer Song; Oh Lady Be Good!; Wail; Conception; How Beautiful Is Night; My Favorite Things; Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You?; Bags' Groove; Subconscious Lee; Peace; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
George Shearing, piano; Louis Stewart, Reg Schwager, guitar; Steve Nelson, Frank Ricotti, Don Thompson, vibes; Neil Swainson, bass; Grady Tate, Allan Ganley, Dennis Mackrell, drums; the Robert Farnon Orchestra