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MUSICIAN Born:

George Shearing

George Shearing enjoys an international reputation as a pianist, arranger and composer. Equally at home on the concert stage as in jazz clubs, Shearing is recognized for inventive, orchestrated jazz. He has written over 300 compositions, including the classic “Lullaby of Birdland,” which has become a jazz standard. Shearing was born in 1919 in the Battersea area of London. Congenitally blind, he was the youngest of nine children. His father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains at night after caring for the children during the day. His only formal musical education consisted of four years of study at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind. While his talent won him a number of university scholarships, he was forced to refuse them in favor of a more financially productive pursuit…playing piano in a neighborhood pub for the handsome salary of $5 a week! Shearing joined an all-blind band in the 1930’s. At that time he developed a friendship with the noted jazz critic and author, Leonard Feather. Through this contact, he made his first appearance on BBC radio. In 1947, Mr. Shearing moved to America, where he spent two years establishing his fame on this side of the Atlantic. The Shearing Sound commanded national attention when, in 1949, he gathered a quintet to record “September in the Rain” for MGM. The record was an overnight success and sold 900,000 copies. His U.S. reputation was permanently established when he was booked into Birdland, the legendary jazz spot in New York. Since then, he has become one of the country’s most popular performing and recording artist. In 1982 and 1983 he won Grammy Awards with recordings he made with Mel Torme. Mr. Shearing was the subject of an hour-long television documentary entitled “The Shearing Touch” presented on the Southbank Show with Melvyn Bragg on ITV in the UK. Three presidents have invited Mr. Shearing to play at the White House.. Ford, Carter and Reagan. He performed at the Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. He is a member of the Friars Club and the Lotos Club in New York and the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. His awards and honors are many. In May 1975, he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Westminster College in Salt Lake City. In May of 1994, Hamilton College in upstate New York awarded him another honorary doctorate in music. DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana presented him with an honorary doctorate of music on June 1, 2002. He received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans in 1978 and a community recreational facility in Battersea, south London, was named the George Shearing Centre in his honor. In May of 1993, he was presented with the British equivalent of the Grammy…the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement. In June of 1996, Mr. Shearing was included in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List and on November 26, 1996 he was invested by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his “service to music and Anglo-US relations.” He was presented the first American Music Award by the National Arts Club, New York City, in March of 1998. In 1999, his 80th birthday was celebrated in England where he played to a sold-out house at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Also appearing with him were the BBC Big Band, the strings of the London Symphony, Dame Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. BBC Radio 2 presented a 2 1/2-hour “Salute to Shearing” in honor of his birthday. The following year another sold-out house at Carnegie Hall was treated to his birthday celebration featuring the George Shearing Quintet with Nancy Wilson, Dave Brubeck, Dr. Billy Taylor, the John Pizzarelli Trio, Tito Puente and Peter Schickele who brought a special greeting from PDQ Bach! Mr. Shearing’s biography, “Lullaby of Birdland,” published by Continuum, was released February 2005. In conjunction with the autobiography release Concord Records released a composite of Shearing recordings in a 2-CD set entitled “Lullabies of Birdland.: A Musical Autobiography” which was immediately followed up with “Hopeless Romantics” with Michael Feinstein. Concord then released the collectors set Mel Tormé & George Shearing The Concord Years. Mr. Shearing’s popularity continues to rise.

NEWS: OPINION

The Shearing Sound That Wasn't

The Shearing Sound That Wasn't

In 1948, George Shearing and Buddy DeFranco kicked around the idea of forming a quintet. With Shearing's block chords and Buddy's bop clarinet along with their speed, they figured they'd knock out audiences. They performed together with bassist John Levy and drummer Denzil Best at the Clique Club, which would become Birdland a year later. But ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

The New York - Paris Reunion Quintet: Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club, Basel

Read "Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club, Basel" reviewed by David A. Orthmann

Many of us dearly miss those life-affirming nights in jazz clubs when a band can do no wrong, blowing as if there's no tomorrow, and temporarily washing away the workaday realities of existence. The New York-Paris Reunion Quintet's Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club, Basel takes some of the yearning and emptiness out of waiting ...

ARTICLE: RADIO

John Yao, Chris Potter, Clark Terry and More

Read "John Yao, Chris Potter, Clark Terry and More" reviewed by Joe Dimino

This week we open with John Yao, one of the best kept secrets in the world of jazz, featuring his group Triceratops with a cut off his latest album How We Do. And best kept jazz secrets is one of the themes of this episode. We also look into the world of accomplished jazz cats Chris ...

ARTICLE: YEAR IN REVIEW

2019: The Year in Jazz

Read "2019: The Year in Jazz" reviewed by Ken Franckling

The year 2019 was robust in many ways. International Jazz Day brought its biggest stage to Australia. An important but long-shuttered jazz mecca was revived in a coast-to-coast move. ECM Records celebrated a golden year. The music and its makers figured prominently on the big screen. The National Endowment for the Arts welcomed four new NEA ...

NEWS: OPINION

George Shearing: Quintet Xmas

George Shearing: Quintet Xmas

At JazzWax, 12 is the number of years I've posted annually on my selection for the JazzWax Vintage Holiday Album Hall of Fame. The point of this is to offer up perfect holiday music that conjures up feelings of a time long past or is just superbly executed seasonal music. Combined on your iTunes or Spotify ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

Nat "King" Cole: Nat "King" Cole: Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)

Read "Nat "King" Cole: Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Before pianist/vocalist Nat King Cole had a career as a pop crooner—his many hits included “All for You," “The Christmas Song," “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66," “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," “Nature Boy" and “Mona Lisa" (the No. 1 song in 1950)—he led a successful jazz trio which featured both his piano playing and ...

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEW

Nat "King" Cole: Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)

Read "Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)" reviewed by Victor L. Schermer

While he achieved fame and fortune as a pops crooner of the 1950s-60s, Nat “King" Cole firmly occupies a place in jazz history. Unlike Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and others who began their careers as singers, Cole started out as a pianist, composer/arranger, and band leader, working small clubs in Chicago, soon adding vocals ...

ARTICLE: RADIO

Sonny Rollins & Miles Davis

Read "Sonny Rollins & Miles Davis" reviewed by Joe Dimino

From an album that is charting very well and a man that is robust in the world of jazz these days, we begin our 614th Episode with Eric Wyatt on a new album paying the ultimate respects to his friend and hero Sonny Rollins. From there, we explore a host of cats that are putting quality ...

ARTICLE: RADIO

Here Is The Best Part - You Have a Jazz Heart

Read "Here Is The Best Part - You Have a Jazz Heart" reviewed by Mary Foster Conklin

The final August broadcast included new releases from saxophonists Houston Person and Roxy Coss, pianist Eliane Elias, and The Time Flies featuring Monika Herzig, with birthday shout outs to Dorothy Parker, Carolyn Leigh (pictured), Jimmy Rowles, Wayne Shorter, Mimi Fox and Linda May Han Oh, among others. Also a preview of who was playing in NYC ...


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