Sir George Shearing, British-born American jazz pianist (Lullaby of Birdland), died from heart failure he was , 91.
Sir George Shearing, OBE was an Anglo-American jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group that recorded for MGM Records and Capitol Records died from heart failure he was , 91. The composer of over 300 titles, he 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. Shearing credited the Glenn Miller Orchestra‘s reed section of the late 1930s and early 1940s 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 drew upon the music of Satie, Delius and Debussy for inspiration.
He died of heart failure on February 14, 2011 in New York City, at the age of 91.
|(August 13, 1919 – February 14, 2011)|
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‘s Saxes ‘n’ Sevens band.
In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his harmonically complex style mixed swing, bop and modern classical influences. One of his first performances in the US 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 under contract with MGM and DeFranco 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 (listed 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. Along with dozens of musical stars of his day, Shearing appeared on ABC‘s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.
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, and featuring Stéphane Grappelli, the musician with whom he had debuted as a sideman decades before. Later, Shearing played with a trio, as a soloist and increasingly in a duo. Among his collaborations were sets with the Montgomery Brothers, Marian McPartland, Brian Q. Torff, Jim Hall, Hank Jones and Kenny Davern. In 1979, Shearing signed with Concord Records, and recorded for the label with Mel Tormé. This collaboration garnered Shearing and Tormé two Grammys, one in 1983 and another in 1984.
Shearing was married twice, first to the former Trixie Bayes, with whom he was married from 1941 to 1973. Two years after his divorce he married his second wife, the singer Ellie Geffert. Geffert survived him after he died in 2011.
Awards & honors
- Performed for U.S. Presidents
- 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.
- 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 2002, received an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from DePauw University in Indiana.
- 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 George Shearing and his Quintet — MGM (E-3216)
- 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) — Capitol
- 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
To see more of who died in 2010 click here