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| George Shearing
|| August 13 1919
|| Battersea, London, UK
|| jazzbebopswingcool jazz
| Years active
Sir George Shearing, OBE (born August 13, 1919) is an Anglo-American jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group which recorded for MGM Records and Capitol Records. The composer of over 300 titles, he has had multiple albums on the Billboard charts during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s.
He became known for a piano technique known as Shearing's voicing, a type of double melody block chord, with an additional fifth part that doubles the melody an octave lower. George Shearing credits the Glenn Miller Orchestra's reed section of the late thirties and early forties as an important influence.
Shearing's interest in classical music resulted in some performances with concert orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s, and his solos frequently draw upon the music of Debussy and, particularly, Erik Satie and Frederick Delius for inspiration.
Born in Battersea, London, Shearing was the youngest of nine children. He was born blind to working class parents: his father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains in the evening. He started to learn piano at the age of three and began formal training at Linden Lodge School for the Blind, where he spent four years.
Though offered several scholarships, Shearing opted to perform at a local pub, the Mason's Arms in Lambeth, for "25 bob a week" playing piano and accordion. He even joined an all-blind band during that time and was influenced by the albums of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller. He made his first BBC radio appearance during this time after befriending Leonard Feather, with whom he started recording in 1937. In 1940, Shearing joined Harry Parry's popular band and contributed to the comeback of Stéphane Grappelli. Shearing won seven consecutive Melody Maker polls during this time. Around that time he was also a member of George Evans' Saxes 'n' Sevens band.
The U.S. years
In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his harmonically complex style mixed swing, bop and modern classical influences. One of his first gigs in the States was at the Hickory House. He performed with the Oscar Pettiford Trio and led a quartet with Buddy DeFranco, which led to contractual problems since Shearing was with MGM and DeFranco was with Capitol Records. In 1949, he formed the first "George Shearing Quintet", a band with Margie Hyams (vibraphone), Chuck Wayne (guitar), later replaced by Toots Thielemans (billed as John Tillman), John Levy (bass) and Denzil Best (drums) and recorded for Discovery, Savoy and MGM, including the immensely popular single, "September in the Rain" (MGM), which sold over 900,000 copies; "my other hit" to accompany "Lullaby of Birdland". Shearing himself would write of this hit that it was "as accidental as it could be."
In 1956, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He continued to play with his quintet, with augmented players through the years, and recorded with Capitol until 1969. He created his own label, Sheba, that lasted a few years.
In 1970 he began to "phase out his by-now-predictable quintet" and disbanded the group in 1978. One of his more notable albums during this period was The Reunion, With George Shearing (Verve 1976), made in collaboration with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Rusty Jones, which featured Stéphane Grappelli, the musician with whom he had debuted as a sideman decades before. Later, Shearing played with a trio, as a solo and increasingly in duo. Among his collaborations have been sets with the Montgomery Brothers, Marian McPartland, Brian Q. Torff, Jim Hall, Hank Jones and Kenny Davern. In 1979, Shearing signed with Concord Records, in particular working with Mel Tormé. This collaboration garnered Shearing and Tormé two Grammys, one in 1983 and then another in the following year.
Shearing has also collaborated with singers including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Ernestine Anderson, Dakota Staton, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson and, most notably, Mel Tormé, with whom he performed frequently in the late 80s and early 90s at festivals, on radio and for recordings.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Shearing performed and recorded extensively in a duo format with the Canadian bassist Neil Swainson. Shearing also made a recording with the classical French horn player Barry Tuckwell.
Shearing collaborated with the John Pizzarelli Trio to create the album The Rare Delight of You, which garnered extremely good reviews. The album cover, featuring Pizzarelli and Shearing posing in front of a solid blue background, was designed to resemble the cover of Nat King Cole Sings, George Shearing Plays, a legendary jazz recording with which it shares some similarities in style.
- Performed for U.S. Presidents
- Gerald Ford
- Jimmy Carter
- Ronald Reagan
- Performed at Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
- In 1957, Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road contains a scene describing a Shearing concert
- In 1975, received honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- In 1978, received the Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans.
- 1983 - An Evening with George Shearing & Mel Tormé
- 1984 - Top Drawer
- In 1993, received the Ivor Novello Awards for Lifetime Achievement.
- In 1994, received honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Hamilton College in New York.
- In 1996, was included in the Queens Birthday Honours List and 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".
- In 1998, received the first American Music Award by the National Arts Club, New York City.
- In 2003, received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from BBC Jazz Awards.
- In 2007, was knighted for services to music.
- 1947 Piano Solo Savoy
- 1949 Midnight on Cloud 69 Savoy
- 1949 George Shearing Quintet Discovery
- 1950 You're Hearing the George Shearing Quartet MGM
- 1951 An Evening with the George Shearing Quintet
- 1951 Souvenirs London
- 1951 Touch of Genius MGM
- 1952 I Hear Music Metro
- 1955 Shearing Caravan MGM
- 1955 Shearing in Hi Fi MGM
- 1955 The Shearing Spell Capitol
- 1956 Latin Escapade Capitol
- 1956 Black Satin Capitol (T858)
- 1956 By Request London
- 1956 Velvet Carpet Capitol
- 1957 Shearing on Stage Capitol
- 1958 Blue Chiffon Capitol
- 1958 Burnished Brass Capitol
- 1958 Latin Lace Capitol
- 1958 George Shearing on Stage! Capitol
- 1958 Latin Affair Capitol
- 1958 In the Night with Dakota Staton Capitol
- 1959 Satin Brass Capitol
- 1959 Satin Latin MGM
- 1959 Beauty and the Beat! (with Peggy Lee) Capitol
- 1960 San Francisco Scene Capitol
- 1960 On the Sunny Side of the Strip GNP
- 1960 The Shearing Touch Capitol (T1472)
- 1960 White Satin Capitol
- 1961 George Shearing and the Montgomery Brothers Jazz
- 1961 Mood Latino Capitol
- 1961 Nat King Cole Sings/George Shearing Plays (with Nat King Cole) Capitol
- 1961 Satin Affair Capitol
- 1961 The Swingin's Mutual! (with Nancy Wilson) Blue Note
- 1962 Concerto For My Love - ST-1755 Capitol
- 1962 Jazz Moments Blue Note
- 1962 Shearing Bossa Nova Capitol
- 1962 Soft and Silky MGM
- 1962 Smooth & Swinging MGM
- 1963 Touch Me Softly Capitol
- 1963 Jazz Concert Capitol
- 1963 Rare Form Capitol
- 1963 Old Gold and Ivory Capitol
- 1963 Latin Rendezvous Capitol
- 1964 Out of the Woods Capitol
- 1964 Deep Velvet Capitol
- 1966 That Fresh Feeling Capitol
- 1969 In the Mind Capitol
- 1970 Out of This World (Sheba Records)
- 1971 The Heart and Soul of George Shearing and Joe Williams (Sheba)
- 1972 As Requested (Sheba)
- 1972 Music to Hear (Sheba)
- 1972 The George Shearing Quartet (Sheba)
- 1973 GAS (Sheba)
- 1973 The George Shearing Trio, Vol. 1
- 1974 Light Airy and Swinging MPS/BASF
- 1974 My Ship MPS/BASF
- 1974 The Way We Are MPS/BASF
- 1975 Continental Experience MPS/BASF
- 1976 The Many Facets of George Shearing - MPS/BASF
- 1976 The Reunion MPS/BASF (with Stephane Grappelli)
- 1977 Windows MPS/BASF
- 1977 500 Miles High - MPS/BASF
- 1977 Feeling Happy - MPS/BASF
- 1979 Getting in the Swing of Things MPS/BASF
- 1979 Live Concord Jazz
- 1979 Blues Alley Jazz (Live) Concord Jazz
- 1979 Concerto for Classic Guitar and Jazz Piano Angel
- 1980 Two for the Road (with Carmen McRae) Concord
- 1980 In Concert at the Pavilion Concord Jazz
- 1980 On a Clear Day Concord Jazz
- 1981 Alone Together (with Marian McPartland) Concord Jazz
- 1981 First Edition Concord Jazz
- 1982 An Evening with George Shearing & Mel Tormé (Live, with Mel Tormé)
- 1983 Top Drawer Concord Jazz (Live, with Mel Tormé)
- 1984 Live at the Cafe Carlyle Concord
- 1985 An Elegant Evening Concord Jazz (with Mel Tormé)
- 1985 Grand Piano Concord Jazz
- 1986 Plays Music of Cole Porter Concord
- 1986 More Grand Piano Concord Jazz
- 1987 A Vintage Year Concord Jazz (Live, with Mel Tormé)
- 1987 Breakin' Out Concord Jazz
- 1987 Dexterity Concord Jazz (Live, featuring Ernestine Anderson)
- 1988 The Spirit of 176 Concord Jazz (with Hank Jones)
- 1988 Perfect Match Concord Jazz (with Ernestine Anderson)
- 1989 George Shearing in Dixieland Concord
- 1989 Piano Concord Jazz
- 1990 Mel and George "Do" World War II Concord (Live, with Mel Tormé)
- 1991 Get Happy! - EMI Classics
- 1992 I Hear a Rhapsody: Live at the Blue Note - Telarc (Live)
- 1992 Walkin': Live at the Blue Note Telarc (Live)
- 1992 How Beautiful Is Night Telarc
- 1994 That Shearing Sound Telarc
- 1994 Great Britain's Marian McPartland & George Shearing Savoy Jazz
- 1994 Cocktail for Two Jazz World
- 1995 Paper Moon: Songs of Nat King Cole
- 1997 Favorite Things Telarc
- 1998 Christmas with The George Shearing Quintet Telarc
- 2000 Just for You: Live in the 1950s Jazz Band
- 2001 Live at the Forum, Bath 1992 BBC Legends (Live)
- 2001 Back to Birdland Telarc (Live)
- 2002 The Rare Delight of You (with John Pizzarelli) - Telarc
- 2002 Pick Yourself Up Past Perfect
- 2002 Here and Now. New Look - with G.S. Quintet and String Choir
- 2004 Like Fine Wine Mack Avenue
- 2005 Music to Hear Koch
- 2005 Hopeless Romantics (with Michael Feinstein) Concord
- 2006 Live Jazz from Club 15 Request (Live)
- 2006 Swinging in a Latin Mood Universal
- 2003 George Shearing - Jazz Legend
- 2004 George Shearing: Lullaby of Birdland
- 2004 Swing Era - George Shearing
- 2004 Joe Williams with George Shearing: A Song is Born
- 2005 Duo Featuring Neil Swainson