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Musician

George Shearing

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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.

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Article: Under the Radar

A Different Drummer, Part 2: Royal Hartigan

Read "A Different Drummer, Part 2: Royal Hartigan" reviewed by Karl Ackermann


Drums of Life--Drums of DeathThe ruins of the Anasazi people stand undisturbed in the cliffs between the high mesas and the canyon floors of the southwest. Dating to 2500 B.C., the multi-story adobe pueblos and stone cities were the sites of the ancient indigenous peoples of North America. Archeologists have uncovered an assortment of percussion instruments ...

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Article: Album Review

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: In a Lighter Vein

Read "In a Lighter Vein" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Stan Kenton was a man of many moods, as was his intrepid and popular orchestra, which endured until his passing in August 1979 and whose renown is kept alive even today by the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra. Kenton dons his carefree hat on In a Lighter Vein, an assortment of straight-ahead themes from the orchestra's jazz ...

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Article: Radio

Slide Hampton & Dinah Washington

Read "Slide Hampton & Dinah Washington" reviewed by Joe Dimino


Our 673rd episode of Neon Jazz begins with the prolific pianist and composer Roger Kellaway. We talked to him about the COVID-19 lockdown as we have done with so many other musicians during 2020. Some other musicians interviewed or profiled during this hour of jazz is Scott Colley, Pete McGuiness and Robin McKelle. We pay our ...

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Article: Interview

Hal Galper: Adventures In The Zone

Read "Hal Galper: Adventures In The Zone" reviewed by Paul Rauch


The career of Hal Galper has earned the pianist acclaim as both a performer and educator. Perhaps most importantly, it has drawn attention to his contributions to the music as a true innovator. While other pianists of his era gained more recognition, Galper sought out a career path where acclaim would be genuine among his peers ...

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Article: History of Jazz

Richie Beirach: Exploring Who Matters Most Among the Jazz Pianists

Read "Richie Beirach: Exploring Who Matters Most Among the Jazz Pianists" reviewed by Victor L. Schermer


[The following is a commentary on pianist Richie Beirach's 2020 e-book The Historical Lineage of Modern Jazz Piano: The 10 Essential Players (Conversations between Richie Beirach and Michael Lake), downloadable for free here.] Jazz piano has always garnered (no intended reference to Erroll Garner) special interest among the instruments because it is truly an ...

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Article: Album Review

Neil Swainson Quintet: 49th Parallel

Read "49th Parallel" reviewed by Pierre Giroux


For those who are geographically inclined, the 49th Parallel is the location of the Canada/US border that runs from British Columbia to the Manitoba/Ontario line. For those with a more musical inclination, it is the title of a limited edition vinyl LP reissue (of a 1987 CD) on Reel to Reel Records by the Neil Swainson ...

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Article: Radio

Greg Abate, Charlie Persip & Steve Grossman

Read "Greg Abate, Charlie Persip & Steve Grossman" reviewed by Joe Dimino


This week we open with the Greg Abate Quintet and then go on marking the Charlie Parker centennial. Champian Fulton has a new album honoring Bird, Birdsong and we hear her take on “Yardbird Suite." There are profiles of Kenny Washington, Daniel Hersog and Hal Galper. We also pay respects to musicians that left us in ...

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Article: Album Review

Kenny Kotwitz & the L.A. Jazz Quintet: When Lights Are Low

Read "When Lights Are Low" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Imagine the following conversation: “Hi, my name is Kenny Kotwitz. I'm an accordionist and I want to record a centennial tribute to Art van Damme. Would you care to join me?" Okay, it probably didn't go down quite like that but the premise, in these days of rap, heavy metal, acid rock, new wave, bubblegum pop, ...

1

Article: Radio

Close Your Eyes: Celebrating Bernice Petkere

Read "Close Your Eyes: Celebrating Bernice Petkere" reviewed by Mary Foster Conklin


Included are new releases from the Maria Schneider Orchestra, pianist Nicole Zuraitis, vocal artist Jay Clayton and DuoTrio led by trumpeter Daniel Nissenbaum, with birthday shoutouts to Bernice Petkere (Close Your Eyes, Lullaby of the Leaves), George Shearing, Bill Evans, Cyrille Aimee, Pat Metheny, Lorraine Desmarais, Mary Stallings, Fostina Dixon and more. Thanks for listening and ...


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