George Shearing, a master of what can be best called light jazz, passed away February 14th at the age of 91.
He was born blind in the greater London area, August 13, 1919. He began playing the piano at the age of three and by his late teens had joined George Evans’ Saxes ‘n Sevens as their keyboardist.
He settled in the United States during his late 20′s and for the next 60 years released over 100 albums as a solo artist, with small ensembles, as the leader of large orchestras, and in a duet setting with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and Nat King Cole.
While his jazz sound may have been more approachable and mainstream than that of many of his contemporaries and veered toward easy listening late in his career, it was precise, well-constructed, and innovative through its exploration of chord progressions.
He composed in the neighborhood of 300 songs during his career, and his albums consistently charted during the 1950s through the 1980s, selling tens of millions of copies. Some of his more memorable releases were Black Satin, Shearing On Stage, Satin Brass, The Shearing Touch, and White Satin.
Late in his career he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He was amused at being told not to shake her hand unless she offered hers first. He responded by suggesting they put a bell around her wrist as he was blind.
He would continue to perform regularly into his late 80’s. So tonight, one last tip of the hat to a master of a music generation quickly passing away.