All Star Parade of Bands – George Shearing – 1953
Over to The Blue Note club in Chicago for this installment of the weekend Downbeat. George Shearing and his Quintet, recorded and broadcast by NBC Radio on July 11, 1953.
In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his harmonically complex style mixing swing, bop and modern classical influences gained popularity. One of his first performances was at the Hickory House. He performed with the Oscar Pettiford Trio and led a jazz quartet with Buddy DeFranco, which led to contractual problems, since Shearing was under contract to MGM and DeFranco to 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). This line-up 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 said of this hit that it was “as accidental as it could be.” At this time Jack Kerouac heard him play in Birdland and describes the performance in Part Two of On the Road.
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 became known for a piano technique known as “The Shearing Sound”, a type of double melody block chord, with an additional fifth part that doubles the melody an octave lower. With the piano playing these five voices, Shearing would double the top voice with the vibraphone and the bottom voice with the guitar to create his signature sound. (This piano technique is also known as “locked hands” and the jazz organist Milt Buckner is generally credited with inventing it. In Shearing’s later career he played with a more conventional piano technique while maintaining his recognizable improvisational style.)
One of the major forces in the Cool School of Jazz in the early 1950’s, Shearing was active all the way up almost to the time of his passing in 2011. Here he is in the midst of his meteoric rise at one of the most famous Jazz clubs in the U.S.
A mellow end to the weekend, you must admit.
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