News / Arts & Entertainment

Jazz Great George Shearing Dies at 91

A 1968 file photo shows actress Lynn Redgrave (L) and George Shearing at an Arts and Entertainment Network Party in New York
A 1968 file photo shows actress Lynn Redgrave (L) and George Shearing at an Arts and Entertainment Network Party in New York

Multimedia

Audio
Doug Levine

Famed jazz pianist and composer George Shearing, 91, died Monday, February 14 of heart failure in New York City. Shearing was born in England but settled in the United States in 1947. His recording career lasted more than six decades and included albums with some of the top names in jazz.  Despite being blind, George Shearing became one of the world's most popular performers.

George Shearing appeared on the American jazz scene in the early 1940s with a series of successful recordings that featured a fine-tuned rhythm section of guitar, bass, drums and vibraphone.  He was already quite famous in England, but after the release of his hit song "September In The Rain," his quintet rose to new heights.

Shearing was born blind in London on August 13, 1919.  He began playing piano at age three and soon fell in love with the music of Earl Hines, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum.  At 19, he performed jazz accordion in Claude Bampton's all-blind band and got his first real taste of show business.

"One night, we were all ready to go.  Fifteen blind musicians taught to play instruments from being chair caners and basket makers and so on," Shearing said.  "Now, we're all ready to go in the theatre and the stage manager says 'Ok fellas.'  And someone's glass eye had fallen out, rolled across the stage, [and] fifteen blind guys [are] down on the floor looking for this eye.  They found it and gave it to him, and he put it in and the show got underway."

Shearing won over American audiences with his own style of boogie-woogie, blues and jazz swing which later became known as "The Shearing Sound."  One of his best-known compositions is the jazz standard “Lullaby of Broadway,” co-written with lyricist George David Weiss.

Critics were enamored of his heartfelt melodies often described as "romantic" and "whimsical."  Shearing once said the birth of rock 'n' roll gave a new dimension to his repertoire. 

"We have benefited from the embryonic stages of rock and roll which started probably in the early '50's, and are now the glad recipients, most of the time, of a healthy integration between jazz, folk and rock," he said.

Over the years, Shearing's ever-changing personnel included singers Mel Torme, Carmen McRae and Peggy Lee, as well as Joe Pass, Cal Tjader and Hank Jones.  His 1962 album "Nat 'King Cole' Sings, George Shearing Plays" features one of the most famous piano introductions of all time on the selection "Let There Be Love."  In 1976, he collaborated with the great French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli for the critically-acclaimed album "Reunion."  In 2003, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BBC Jazz Awards.   

Shearing avoided the trappings of jazz fusion, synthesizers and electronics that arrived late in his career.  He believed that more volume didn't necessarily mean better music.  

"I know that there is quite a bit of talent around and it's too loud," Shearing said.  "And it's a shame."           

At the peak of his career, George Shearing was immortalized in Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel “On The Road.”  Upon seeing Shearing in a Chicago nightclub, Kerouac wrote, "as always he leaned his blind head on his pale hand, all ears opened like the ears of an elephant, listening to the American sounds and mastering them for his own English summer-night's use."  

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."