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Sir George Shearing, British-born American jazz pianist (Lullaby of Birdland), died from heart failure he was , 91.

Sir George Shearing, OBE was an AngloAmerican 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.[1]
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)

Early life

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.[2]
Though offered several scholarships, Shearing opted to perform at a local pub, the Mason’s Arms in Lambeth, for “25 bob a week”[3] 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.[1] He made his first BBC radio appearance during this time after befriending Leonard Feather, with whom he started recording in 1937.[2] 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.

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 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.”[3]
In 1956, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.[3] 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.

Later career

In 1970 he began to “phase out his by-now-predictable quintet”[1] 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.

Personal life

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.[4]

Awards & honors

  • 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.[5]
  • In 2007, was knighted for services to music.



  • 2003: George Shearing – Jazz Legend
  • 2004: George Shearing: Lullaby of Birdland[6]
  • 2004: Swing Era – George Shearing
  • 2004: Joe Williams with George Shearing: A Song is Born[7]
  • 2005: Duo Featuring Neil Swainson

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