Last year, George Shearing celebrated his eightieth birthday. In his native Britain, there were various special events including a recorded concert for the BBC, and later his American colleagues and friends joined him for a musical tribute at Carnegie Hall. Reflections: The Best of George Shearing is a special overview of his work on Telarc and a great introduction to his genius.
Much of this 13-track anthology spotlights Shearing's trio with bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Grady Tate at the Blue Note in New York City, revisiting bebop classics such as "Birdfeathers" and "Wail." It's no surprise that Shearing comes into his own in the intimate surroundings of a jazz club.
Reflections: The Best of George Shearing includes the Shearing quintet's distinctive take on one of his best-known compositions, "Conception," a bewitching solo version of Dave Brubeck's "Summer Song," and the lavish backdrop of Robert Farnon's orchestra on "How Beautiful is Night."
Shearing manages to use the keyboard to capture not just the styles of other pianists, but to conjure up the essence of vocalists as well. His magic is in evidence on two tunes associated with Nat "King" Cole: "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You."
George Shearing's career spans 60 years, and he enjoys an international reputation as a pianist, arranger and composer. Born in London, the congenitally blind pianist studied music for just four years before starting to play professionally. He has since written over 300 compositions, including "Lullaby of Birdland," which has become a jazz standard.
In the '50s and '60s, Shearing led one of the most popular jazz groups in the world. In 1982 and '83, he won Grammy awards for albums made with Mel Tormé. Signed to Telarc in 1992, Shearing now has eight recordings with the label, including Paper Moon: Music of Nat "King" Cole (CD-83375), Favorite Things (CD-83398), That Shearing Sound (CD-83347) and A George Shearing Christmas (CD-83438). Active and in good form, he continues to perform all over the world and remains one of jazz's greatest pianists.
Compiled just in time to celebrate his eighty-first birthday, Reflections: The Best of George Shearing stands on its own as an overview of the master's career.