"The story of the Shearing sound is interesting. I had encouraged George to come over from England in '46. He stayed about three months, did one record date for Savoy, and went back home. When I saw him in London in the summer of '47, he was playing accordion in some band. But that winter he returned and settled in a small apartment in Queens. Since I had helped produce his first records in London, I went to all the clubs on 52d St., telling them about these wonderful musicians who had come over.
I managed to get him one night at the Hickory House. Finally, after George had been here for about six months, I persuaded Irving Alexander to book him at the Three Deuces. He received $65 a week. He had John Levy on bass at one point and J.C. Heard on drums. He had Oscar Pettiford for a time. Then he had a quartet with Eddie Shu playing the many instruments he played. For a while George was working just with a rhythm section. But he was a fixture at the Deuces. Then he got a job at the Clique, which became Birdland the following year. His quartet consisted of Buddy De Franco, John Levy and Denzil Best.
I was still trying to get him on wax. Albert Marx, for whom I had made records on Musicraft, started Discovery Records. But after I sold Albert, it developed that Buddy was under contract to Capitol. During '45-'46 I had done a session with a combination I liked very much: vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass and drums. I used it on a Mary Lou Williams date and on a session with Slam Stewart, Red Norvo, Chuck Wayne, Morey Feld and Johnny Guarnieri. One of them was on Continental and one on Victor. In each case, I found the instrumentation very appealing.
[JazzWax note: The guitarist on the 1945 Stewart date for Continental actually was Bill De Arango; The Mary Lou Williams date in 1946 featured Marjorie Hyams (vibes) Mary Lou Williams (piano), Mary Osborne (guitar) June Rotenberg (bass) and Rose Gottesman (drums).]
With Buddy off limits, I suggested that George get Chuck Wayne on guitar and Margie Hyams on vibes. George liked the idea, and the quintet was organized. I wrote most of the music--Life with Feather, Sorry Wrong Rumba and two others--because George wanted to save his own material for something important in the offing. He like the instrumentation so much that eventually it became the Shearing sound."
--Leonard Feather, as quoted in 52nd St.: The Street of Jazz by Arnold Shaw.
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.