Piano Legend’, American Treasure Turns 90:
SIR GEORGE SHEARING, THE MUSIC LEGEND,
COMMEMORATES A MILESTONE AUG.
MA, Aug. 13, 2009)---By all standards, Sir George Shearing
is a music legend and on Thurs., Aug.
13, the original jazz icon turns 90 years-old.
of his musical generation remain and the music giants who were
his collaborators, like Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee and Nat
King Cole, to name a few, have all passed.
these days, Sir George, who calls home, at least for summer, a
bucolic farm in western Massachusetts, remains very
much in tune with his musical roots and although he no longer
actively performs (he retreated from public shows five years
presence, via “The George Shearing Sound,” on
stages across the world, remains vital.
Hearing of Shearing at the 92nd Street Y
By WILL FRIEDWALD
A few years back, at a
Piano Jazz concert at the 92nd Street Y, Bill Charlap played
a particularly strong solo, one which so obviously thrilled
the gentleman sitting next to me that he responded with delighted
laughter and a strong cry of “Yeah!”
It was then that I noticed his thick South London accent and
closed eyes (he wasn’t wearing his trademark Ray-Bans)
and re-alized I was one seat away from George Shearing, a living
legend of the jazz piano if ever there was one. His lifelong
blindness aside, Mr. Shearing is regarded as a musical visionary
by genera-tions of pianists including, as Mr. Charlap has pointed
out, Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock. While Mr. Shearing opted
at that mo-ment to express his admiration for Mr. Charlap in
a loud and forthright manner, on Wednesday Mr. Charlap honored
the ongoing legacy of what he called “the George Shearing
Sound” in a formal concert that served as the climax of
the second week of the Y’s Jazz in July series.
Jazz pianist collects knighthood
Veteran jazz pianist George Shearing has received his knighthood
from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The 87-year-old musician,
who was born blind, was accompanied by his wife Lady Eleanor
and actress Lindy Alexander. "I enjoyed
it very much and I am very excited about it," he told reporters
after his investiture.
One of the best known jazz pianists of the post-war era, he
was made an OBE in 1996 and received a life achievement honour
at the BBC Jazz Awards in 2003. Born the youngest of nine children
to a coalman from south London in 1919, Sir George moved to the
United States in 1947 and has lived in New York since 1978. Two
years after he moved to the US he scored a huge hit with the
record September In The Rain. Known for his unusual "locked
hands" style of playing,
Sir George has played for three US presidents as well as the Queen.
He was still performing into his 80s but suffered a serious fall
that led to months of hospital and nursing home care.
Jazz great who bridged Atlantic
George Shearing, who has been made a knight in the New Year Honours,
was one the best known British jazz pianists of the post-war
Born in London in 1919, he overcame blindness to learn
the piano with only limited tuition and a devotion to jazz
records and then played hotel bars. He found success with bands
and performing on the BBC before moving to America and playing
with jazz greats. He was still performing into his 80s but
suffered a serious fall in 2004. Playing with the likes of
Harry Parry's popular band and Stephane Grappelli's groups
of the 1940s brought him fame in England and he topped several
Melody Maker polls.
Global demand George Shearing was made an OBE in 1996
it was his move to America in 1946, where he subsequently became
a naturalised citizen, that cemented his place in the jazz world.
Shearing, along with countrymen Victor Feldman, Eddie Thompson
and Dill Jones, became accepted as equals by their American colleagues.
He is known for his unusual "locked
hands" style of playing
and was traditionally accompanied by guitar, bass, drums and vibraphone.
He worked in New York and his song about one of the more famous
clubs, Lullaby of Birdland, become his signature song and a
Although respected by mainstream jazz musicians,
an international hit in 1949 with his cover of September in
the Rain led him away from pure jazz to more popular success.
In the pre-rock and roll days of popular music, Shearing was
one of the best known artists and was in global demand.
He built a reputation for melodic and accessible improvisations
and despite a quiet period in the 1970s never lost his core following.
He has collaborated with singers such as Peggy Lee, Ernestine
Anderson and Carmen McRae, and an album made with singer Mel
Torme won a Grammy Award in 1982. He was made an OBE in 1996
and received the lifetime achievement honour at the BBC Jazz
Awards in 2003.
A fall at his Manhattan home in March 2004
led to seven months of hospital and nursing home care, but
he has since returned to his family.
Speaking from New York,
he said he was honoured to be made a knight "for
something I absolutely love doing".
"Receiving such an honour as a knighthood might also show
young people what can be achieved in life if one learns his craft
and follows his dreams. My mind keeps flashing on my beginnings
as a pianist playing in a pub for the equivalent of 5 dollars
a week," he added. "What a journey it has been from
that pub to Buckingham Palace."
George Shearing will be traveling to London in
June to receive his Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham
the ceremony, he and Lady Shearing will host a luncheon for some
of their closest friends including Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John
Dankworth, the BBC personality and interviewer Michael Parkinson
and actress Julia McKenzie. He is also looking forward
to seeing some of his immediate family and other relatives.
George is a bit overwhelmed with the outpouring of good wishes
and congratulations from people all over the world.....people
he has never met. He was especially struck by a note sent
to him by the Rector Emeritus of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue,
where he is a member. It said, " I am thrilled that
the Queen wants to give you her official gift of the honor of
Knighthood. These things are very precious and it is only
right that your work and worth receive this recognition......and
all of us are the beneficiaries, proud and pleased for you."
George Shearing, legendary jazz pianist and composer,
has been included in the list of New Year Honours in London. He
is to have the honour of Knighthood conferred upon him by Queen
Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
When asked his reaction to this news, he said that receiving
this honour defies comprehension. "My mind keeps flashing
on my beginnings as pianist playing in a pub for the equivalent
of $5.00 a week. What a journey it has been from that pub
to Buckingham Palace."
He said that is was also amazing that he was to receive this
honour for something that he absolutely loved doing. "Receiving
such an honour as a Knighthood might also show young people what
can be achieved in life if one learns his craft and follows his
A poor, blind kid from Battersea named George Shearing, the
youngest of nine, with four years of formal musical training
but with tremendous will to make good is to become sir George
Shearing...... now that's a fairy tale come true.
Birthday on August 13th was an absolute smash! He and Ellie went
to a concert at Tanglewood
and returned home for one of her elegantly sumptuous dinners
served on the terrace at The Farm. They spent
the evening surrounded by a crew of friends including (his
bassist) Neil Swainson and family, Dennis Mackrel, (his drummer)
and family. Well,
you know all that talent under one roof had to end in a jazz collaboration…and
it did! To the delight of everyone present, George played
masterfully and with great glee.
the festivities continued the next day everyone was amazed
at how proficient George is becoming with his cane. A wonderful
celebration was enjoyed by all. Many more years, George! Many
big thank you all for the kind notes of encouragement! They are
much appreciated. George is progressing very well. He recently
attended a concert of Dick Hyman's at the 92nd Street Y where
he was greeted with resounding applause! It was a complete evening
of entertainment and enjoyment out and about in New York.
Shearing is doing very well. He is playing the piano at home
daily. He does have a recent CD release with Michael Feinstein
entitled HOPELESS ROMANTICS on Concord.
8 , 2005
Shearing is making strides today! He is walking, playing piano,
enjoying visits from friends as well as appreciating the delicious
home cooked meals prepared by his wife, Ellie..
7 , 2005
Shearing is recovering at home, enjoying the home cooked meals
and playing his piano on a regular basis. Thank you to everyone
for your prayers and support!
7 months and 17 days spent in hospitals and nursing homes, Mr.
George Shearing is pleased to announce that he's back home and
lapping up familiar ambience and Ellie's home cooking. Let's hear
it for Himself........Hip, Hip.....
7 months George will be going home early next week to familiar comfortable
surroundings. At home he will be working with physical therapists
for further recovery.
19 , 2004
is progressing well each day. He does remain in intensive care,
but is responding well. He is listening to music and communicating
to staff and his wife Ellie. Prognosis is good.
Shearing remains hospitalized, but is resting comfortably and is
in stable condition after sustaining a fall in his New York apartment
earlier this week. Additional testing will take place today. Preliminary
results are expected tomorrow.
George Shearing, 84, jazz piano icon, has been admitted to a New
York City hospital after a fall sustained in his home last night.
He is currently under observation.
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