"A One Night Stand with the Big Bands"
(As originally broadcast on WTIC, Hartford, CT)

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Program 8 - September, 1971 - George Shearing

This is an interview only - the original program has been lost.
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George Shearing was born on August 13, 1919 in Battersea region of London, England and was the youngest of nine children. He was born congenitally blind. His parents were in the working class; his father was a coal deliverer and his mother cleaned trains in the evening. He started to learn piano at the age of three and began formal training at Linden Lodge School for the Blind, where he spent four years. Though offered several scholarships, Shearing opted to perform at local pub, the Mason's Arms in Lambeth, for "25 bob a week" playing piano and accordion. He even joined an all-blind band during that time and was influenced by the albums of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller. He made his first BBC radio appearance during this time after befriending Leonard Feather, whom he started recording with in 1937. In 1940, Shearing joined Harry Parry's popular band and contributed to the comeback of Stéphane Grappelli. Shearing also won seven consecutive Melody Maker polls during this time.

In 1947, Shearing moved to the United States, where he began to play in the genre of hard bop. One of his first gigs in the States was at the Hickory House. He performed with the Oscar Pettiford Trio and lead a quartet with Buddy DeFranco, which led to recording problems since Shearing was with MGM and DeFranco was with Capitol Records. In 1949, he formed a band with Marjorie Hyams (vibraphone), Chuck Wayne (guitar), John Levy (bass) and Denzil Best (drums) and recorded several albums for Discovery, Savoy and MGM, including the immensly popluar September in the Rain (MGM), which sold over 900,000 copies. Shearing himself would write of the album, in 1966, that it was "as accidental as it could be."

In 1956, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He continued to play with his quintet, with augmented players through the years, and recorded with Captiol until 1969. He created his own label, Sheba, that lasted a few years. Starting in 1970, Shearing began to "phase out his by-now-predictable quintet" and disbanded the group finally in 1978. Later, Shearing played with a trio, as a solo and increasingly in duo. Among his collaborations have been sets with the Montgomery Brothers, Marian McPartland, Brian Q. Torff, Jim Hall, Hank Jones and Kenny Davern. In 1979, Shearing signed with Concord Records, in particular working with Mel Torme. This collaboration garnered Shearing and Torme two Grammys, one in 1982 and then following year.

Over the years, Shearing has also collaborated with singers including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Ernestine Anderson, Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson and, most notably, Mel Tormé, with whom he performed frequently in the late 80s and early 90s at festivals, on radio and for recordings.

Recently, Shearing collaborated with the John Pizzarelli Trio to create the album The Rare Delight of You, which garnered extremely good reviews. The album cover, featuring Pizzarelli and Shearing posing in front of a solid blue background, was designed to resemble the cover of Nat King Cole Sings, George Shearing Plays, a legendary jazz recording with which it shares some similarities in style.

Shearing's interest in classical music resulted in some performances with concert orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s, and his solos frequently draw upon the music of Debussy and, particularly, Erik Satie for inspiration. Shearing also made a recording with the classical French horn player Barry Tuckwell. (From Wikipedia)

George Shearing died in New York City on February 14, 2011, at age 91.

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Program 8 - September, 1971 - George Shearing

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