George Shearing (1919-2011) March 6, 2011

from The Palomar· ·


George Shearing
George Shearing (August 13, 1919 – February 14, 2011) died on Valentine's Day three weeks ago. His career spanned most of the 20th Century, giving us incredibly beautiful music whether George played piano with his famous Quintet or solo, perhaps accompanied by a bass player, as he often did in his later years.

For those of you who don't know, George was blind.

We met at Chicago's Blue ...




George Shearing
George Shearing (August 13, 1919 – February 14, 2011) died on Valentine's Day three weeks ago. His career spanned most of the 20th Century, giving us incredibly beautiful music whether George played piano with his famous Quintet or solo, perhaps accompanied by a bass player, as he often did in his later years.

For those of you who don't know, George was blind.

We met at Chicago's Blue Note in 1956 shortly after my 16th birthday, where my girlfriend and I sat in the Peanut Gallery to hear our jazz favorites. His Quintet always sounded terrific.

To give you an idea, here is a broadcast of George at the Blue Note in 1951. (Listen to the late Chicago deejay Mike Rapchak, another friend of mine, as the announcer on this broadcast.)




In 1959-1960, when I was in my second year at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I produced three concerts: one featured Shelly Manne, who played music for the hit TV series "Peter Gunn," another featured the Kingston Trio, so incredibly popular at the time; and George Shearing and his Quintet.

I booked George and his Quintet for a Tuesday night to play in the school gym. To my delight, we sold out. To my dismay, it rained like crazy the day and night of the performance.

The Quintet was scheduled to play from 8 PM until 11 PM. A few minutes before 8 PM,
I received a phone call from George's booking agent from Ventura, about 40 miles southeast, that the rain was slowing them down and they would be about an hour late! I made an announcement. The packed house understood perfectly and remained patient.

The Quintet arrived a few minutes before nine, carrying their instruments and setting up quickly. Everyone was wet from the storm.

George and his Quintet began with their theme, "Lullaby of Birdland," and then broke into their hit "September in the Rain." The audience loved them! George took the mike at the end of "September in the Rain" to apologize for being late.

"I'm sorry we were late tonight. It wasn't only the storm that delayed us; it was my turn to drive...."

I saw George many times over the years, usually in Chicago at the Blue Note, The London House, Ravinia Park, and Rick's Cafe American; sometimes in New York at the Cookery. I remember him as friendly, smiling, laughing, humming, cordial. I wrote about him for the Chicago Sun-Time in 1977. You can read my article here:

http://www.tuxjunction.net/georgeshearing.htm

I will miss George, as will his legions of fans around the world.

.... Goodbye ....
George Spink
George Spink
Moderator - The Palomar
Los Angeles, California
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