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September In The Rain

February 16, 2011
by

Jazz pianist George Shearing died. Fantastic piano player for many many years, and well worth seeking out even now that he’s dead. His records I mean. And the dude was blind from birth. And from England. How many hurdles can one man surmount?

So complete was Shearing’s mastery of jazz piano that the Melody Maker poll voted him the top British pianist for seven years in a row. Aware of being the proverbial big fish in a rather small local pond, Shearing accepted an invitation from the British writer Leonard Feather, a friend from London who had already emigrated, to visit New York in late 1946. He stayed for three months and recorded a trio date for the Savoy label. Encouraged by this experience and enthralled by what he had heard, Shearing moved for good in December 1947.

By now heavily into bebop, he began to attract attention as the intermission pianist at the Hickory House on 52nd Street, sometimes acting as Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist on her pianist’s night off before finally landing a quartet engagement at the Clique Club with the fine clarinettist Buddy De Franco. Credited with some 300 compositions of his own, Shearing gained his greatest success with Lullaby of Birdland (1952), commissioned as the theme music for a radio programme based around the famous Birdland club in New York. “I always tell people it took me 10 minutes and 35 years in the business,” he said, adding that the other “299 compositions enjoyed a bumpy ride from obscurity to oblivion.”

Rest in peace, Sir George Shearing.

And in case you were wondering what a bonded rye would run you at the Hickory House, well, it started at 90 cents.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 4:41 pm

    R.I.P. George Shearing. What I’d give for a time machine after looking at that Hickory House menu.

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