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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

George Shearing Quintet

George Shearing Quintet
Discovery DL 3002

The tracks are available with other period trio and quintet numbers from online vendors so I will not be posting a sample. Presented here to share the cover and biographical information.

One outstanding Shearing set, in my opinion, despite The Billboard review (below).

Discovery 10 inch LP pressed on very dark, just translucent red vinyl.

Personnel: Chuck Wayne - Guitar, Margie Hyams - Vibes, Denzil Best - Drums and John Levy - Bass.

From the back cover: George was born in August 1920, in a London district known as Battersea, where it would be hard to find an atmosphere less conductive to the development of jazz ideas. Son of a fireman who had no interest in music, George was educated at a school for the blind in London, having been sightless since birth.

His musical education was entirely classical, and it was not until he was sixteen that he began to take an interest in the American recordings of such artists as Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller.

George was seventeen when one night he visited a jam session I was running in the West End of London. He created an immediate sensation, not only with his modern jazz piano work, but also by playing swing accordion, an accomplishment without precedent.

Soon after that, it was my privilege to arrange for George's first recording date. During the next few years he developed rapidly as both a pianist and arranger, dictating his arrangements to a skilled copyist. He appeared as soloist in numerous night clubs and stage shows throughout Great Britain, and rose to become winner of the piano division in the annual poll conducted by the Melody Maker, London musical weekly.

In 1945 George decided to visit the United States for the first time. The experience was so stimulating that he decided to return later as an immigrant. With his wife and little daughter Wendy he settled in this country in December 1947.

At that time, George present style had not been clearly formulated. There were still traces of the Teddy Wilson and other early influences. But soon after he landed his first job working among the great modern jazzmen at the Three Deuces on 52nd Street, a new and more exciting Shearing personality began to evolve. By the time George has listened to the other leading bop pianists for a couple of months, he began to outstrip them in their own highly specialized art.

The Quintet heard in the present selections was actually formed for the Discover record date, and the results were so successful that the five artists decided to stay together. Their first night club engagement in New York began in April 1949 at Cafe Society.

Also from the back cover: The cover artist, Chris Kealey has symbolized the bebop pianism of George Shearing by the little abstract man who beckons all to look at his exhibit – a creative piano; and a portrait of a bopper, complete with beret, horn rimmed glasses and goatee.

The artist, Chris Kealey is a 31-year old California artist-photographer, who believes in the use of photographic techniques to achieve unusual artistic effects. Born in Passaic, N.J., and schooled in Illinois, he came to California in time to decorate the walls of several of Hollywood's better temples of jazz. Since 1940 his primary interest has been photography: He was an aerial photographer with the 7th A.A.F., and since the war has studied the medium at Los Angeles Art Center. His Discovery album covers reflect that interest, whether they are done as pure photography or in another creative medium.

From Billboard - August 6, 1949 (Review of Discovery M-12 which was the 3 record 78 set released with the same, but modified cover art with the photos removed and replaced with abstract ink drawings): George Shearing, the brilliant young blind English pianist, is emerging as a leading commercial jazz performer. His records have begun to pick up sales impetus of late. This album therefore is well timed to fall in with the Shearing trend. However, the (some copy issues here) it will probably sell, it is a disappointing presentation of the bright little quintet which is lead by Shearing and includes such stellar musicians as Denzil Best, John Levy, Margie Hyams and Chuck Wayne. This mainly because at least half of the compositions in the set are so complex as not to allow jazz freedom and feeling – greatest assets of the group – from entering these sides. Best of the sides are "Cherokee" and "Four Bars Short," a blues on both of which Shearing demonstrates his ability with an accordion. Striking album cover.

Life With Feather
Sorry, Wrong Rhumba
Bebop's Fables
Four Bars Short
Moon Over Miami
Cotton Top Cherokee

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