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Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Shearing Spell - George Shearing

The Man I Love (Duophonic)
The Shearing Spell
The George Shearing Quintet
Capitol Records T648 & DT 648
1955 / Duophonic reissue 1959

This is a terrific mid-50s set. Thielemans gets a mention on the back cover as well as the billboard review, so I thought that I share a his sample, but there are many high points to listen to, including my favorite, Cuban Fantasy.

From Billboard - November 5, 1955: The pianist's shift in labels, after all these years, is not accompanied by any radical change in style. Indeed, if anything stands out here, it is simply that he is saying what he has been saying a long time – but with greater refinement. A new high, in terms of his own idiot, is the subtle, chastely conceived "Moonray." Shearing's most significant experimentation continues to be in Afro-Cuban stylings of standards: "Out Of This World" and "Strange" are particularly successful essays. The work of Jean Thielemans on guitar and harmonica once more must be specially singled out in this rich well programmed package. Easy sales are predicted.

From the back cover: Sharing melodic honors with George and his piano is Johnny Rae and his vibes. Vibes have been used before as a solo jazz instrument, but they have rarely been so successfully integrated into a jazz group. Johnny brings to his music a background of training at the Boston and New Englan Conservatories as well as professional experience with various jazz combos around the country.

Armando Pedraza at the bongos and conga drum, and Willie Bobo at the timbale, form a duo whose flashing percussive effects have been closely identified with Shearing's style. With this unusual instrumentation George directs his group into the varying jazz colors and excitement of the Afro-Cuban idiom.

A special word must be spoken for Jean "Toots" Thielemans, guitar and harmonica. A native of Belgium, he was discovered by Benny Goodman during one of the latter's European tours. Encouraged to come to America, he took over the important guitar chair with Shearing, periodically stepping out as a harmonica soloist. His work on The Man I Love, one of his rare recorded efforts, proves what in-person listeners have realized for some time, that "Toots" Thelma is a jazz harmonica virtuoso.

Autumn In New York
Out Of This World
Goodnight, My Love
Cuban Fantasy
Midnight In The Air
The Man I Love

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