In the Pantheon of the great musicians, classical or pop, one of my favorites is the legendary pop pianist from England, George Shearing.
Jazz; the Blues; Dixieland; Bop; - Shearing was totally comfortable in whatever aspect of popular music he pursued and performed - not the case with many other notables whom we are familiar with.
Hovering above virtually all that he played were the styles of the great composers in the Classical aspect, which Shearing had such consummate powers in inculcating, actually fusing the Classical styles of three centuries into his arrangements so much of the time in the recordings so many of us treasure and repeatedly listen to.
An unparallelled example of Shearing's unique synthesis is a radio program that the great pianist help arrange in 1989 for one of New York City's stations, lasting about ninety minutes. Shearing himself emerges as a kind of D.J., recounting and playing recordings from his own collection, going back to the years of World War II, and bringing us into the first decade of the new century - imagine! His career spanned some seven decades. He remarks ruefully that he wished he had been given copies of studio recordings he made in London which were never released because of the sounds of sirens piercing the recording studio during an attack by Hitler's hordes during the London Blitz.
This radio program also contains some of Shearing's most wonderful performances of some of the great tunes written during that period, which is really a kind of Golden Age of tunes, many of which are still popular today and brought back by today's pop instrumentalists and vocalists.
One of the highlights in this radio program done on WNEW in New York is some accordion playing(!) by Shearing himself. For example, he plays a recording he did on accordion in 1949, which I believe is the final time he records on the accordion. He also reminded us with his own voice of what a true gentleman is; namely, "one who knows how to play the accordion - but doesn't."
Yes, George Shearing was a great Jazz artist, who understood that humor must be infused tactfully into his work from time to time, insuring that eternal youth is endemic to Jazz. He utilized that sly inferring into his arrangements like no other in his field.
Just listen to the manner in which he subtly injects Satie, or Bach, or Chopin, or Rachmaninoff, or Delius, or Schumann into the tunes of Richard Rodgers - just one example of what Shearing, and Shearing alone, gives to us.
Which pianist smiles more at the listener than this man? Errol Garner, perhaps- and only at times; at least, for me.
Labels: George Shearing on radio in 1989...