Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is George Shearing Even More Than What We Know of Him?

I was thinking about the one conversation I had with the great British musician George Shearing, whom I have discussed in this blog more than once.
As I have related to you, he made a statement to me, just before my leaving him - these are the words he uttered as best as I can recall -
"please do not think of me primarily as a pop or jazz pianist - think of me as a classical musician who happens to play pop."
After all these years, the elemental meaning of that rather unusual statement coming from one of the world's most famous performers of jazz and popular tunes induced me into considering the possible sadness attendant with this statement. With his constant connection to the classics, as he inculcates them in constancy into his arrangements, I became aware that (this is my view only, and I may be in error) he may have had an abiding and unremitting sadness stemming from the reality that because of his being born blind, the huge amount of great classics available to him simply could not be assimilated sufficiently, in numbers, through Braille, to produce a suitable repertoire for the concert stage, simply due to the amount of time which would have been required to do such a thing - thankfully, he had that illimitable talent to turn to the pop/jazz field, and so we know him for what he is.
A rare performance which I have may have given me the reason for my thoughts about this man. If you can find this recording, you will find it a most revealing document pertaining to the possibilities I have mentioned above.
It is his arrangement of Richard Rogers' great "My Funny Valentine." For about ten minutes, Shearing utilizes his overriding love for the classics by infusing this arrangement with such items as a note-for-note playing of a portion of one of Bach 's Fugues; a note-for note injection of the beginning of the slow movement from Rachmaninoff's second concerto; a fling at the style of a Strauss waltz; a canon in the style of Bach using the "My Funny Valentine" theme; shimmering passage work over the theme in the style of Liszt - the manner in which Shearing injects the Rogers tune into the fabric of the entire arrangement has prompted me to consider that this arrangement is the most telling of the musical soul; the very core, of who and what Shearing really was and is; and meant, in his statement to me.
Shearing has become even more powerful to and in my thoughts, than ever before.



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