Leonard Feather Said It


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"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.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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