Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Giant Has Left Us...

It is with deep sadness that I acknowledge the passing of George Shearing, in New York, in his 91st year.
I have discussed Shearing in past blogs, one including an interview I had with him during my twenties.
It is somewhat ironic to me that he passed away on Valentine's day, as the most highly developed and powerful arrangement he ever made was on the Richard Rodgers tune, "My Funny Valentine."
As I do not refer to any source material I write about, I cannot be sure that the video I have of this legendary arrangement is available on the Internet; however, give it a try.
He plays "My Funny Valentine" live in one of New York City's more sophisticated nightclubs about thirty years ago, and fortunately it was videoed, and I do possess a copy.
What Shearing intrinsically represented; that is, a fusion of the Classical with the Popular in a manner no one will be able to replicate, is in this arrangement as a sort of lexicon of Shearing's immense vocabulary.
He swirls the spirits of great names of the past, such as Chopin, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Delius, and, most of all, Bach, around the Rodgers tune in a potpourri cemented so exquisitely by this great British musician, that it must be seen or heard in order to be believed.
After the last notes are played, the camera shifts to the face of Shearing whose wan smile tells us what he truly was, and it is best described by the statement he made as I was leaving the room he and I had shared for the better part of an hour; and it was "please don't think of me as primarily a pop pianist, but as a classical pianist who happens to play pop."
I also simply love his definition of a True Gentleman; that is, "one who knows how to play the accordion - but doesn't."

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