Remembering Sir George Shearing born February 14th 1919
Sir George Shearing, born on August 13th 1919 and died on February 14th 2011. He was one of the world’s most influential and admired jazz pianists, bandleaders and composers. He composed over 300 titles, including the well-known jazz standard Lullaby of Birdland.
He was born blind in London, to working class parents. He began to learn the piano at the age of three, then went onto study at Linden Lodge School for the Blind where he received more formal training.
During his early years, Shearing performed at local pubs and joined an all blind band and was influenced by the records of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller. In the 1940s, he joined Harry Parry’s popular band and was a member of George Evan’s Saxes ‘n’ Sevens band.
In 1947, Shearing moved to the US where he became popular for his unique style, mixing swing, bop and modern classical music. In 1949, he formed the first George Shearing Quintet and they recorded the hit singles September in the Rain and Lullaby of Birdland. Shearing also had an interest in classical music, which led to some performances with orchestras in the 50’s and 60’s. His solo music drew some of its inspiration from composers such as Debussy, Satie and Delius.
He was renowned for a piano technique called ‘Shearing’s voicing’, which was a type of double melody block chord, with an additional fifth part that doubles the melody an octave lower.
He continued to play with his quintet over the years and he recorded with different record labels. In 1978, his group split up and he subsequently played in a trio, as a soloist and then in a duo. Shearing had a successful signing with Concord Records in 1979, collaborating with Mel Torme. This led to two grammy awards in 1983 and 1984. Shearing continued to be successful during his later career and he was awarded an Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 1983.
He still returned frequently to the UK where he gave concerts, sometimes with Torme alongside the BBC band. In 1999, they performed for a special 80th birthday show. Chimes Music was fortunate to have Sir George Shearing in the Kensington shop where he came with his wife Ellie, and bought music for a programme he was presenting on classical composers. He signed one of his vinyl LPs for us; “Thanks for providing a musical haven”.
Sir George Shearing was awarded an OBE in 1996 and knighted in 2007. One of the greatest jazz pianists and bandleaders, he will always be remembered as a true legend in the music world.