George Shearing (August 13, 1919 – February 14, 2011), jazz pianist, composer.

Sir George Shearing was a British-American jazz pianist. He was born in London. Blind since his birth, he began to study the piano at the age of three and developed a unique voicing style on the piano, influenced by the harmonic style of the Glenn Miller saxophone section, as well as Impressionist composers like Debussy, Delius, and Satie. He made his recording debut for Leonard Feather in 1937 at the age of 18 and played as a sideman for violin virtuoso Stéphane Grappelli.

After World War II, he moved to the United States and eventually became a U.S. citizen. He led his own groups for several decades, whose members included stars like Buddy DeFranco, Margie Hyams, and Toots Thielemans. His albums frequently landed on the Billboard charts. He is best known for his 1952 song Lullaby of Birdland,” named after the famous New York jazz club. It remains a frequently performed standard. He also was known for his talents accompanying singers, such as Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, and especially Mel Tormé. Albums that Shearing recorded with Tormé won back-to-back Grammy Awards in 1983 and 1984.

During the last few decades, Shearing preferred to work in duo partnerships, frequently performing and recording with Marian McPartland, Hank Jones, Jim Hall, and even Classical French horn player Barry Tuckwell. George Shearing played for several U.S. Presidents, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and held two honorary doctorates, in addition to the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award. He died from heart failure in New York.

“You can’t say that improvisation is something that you can train yourself to do. It’s a question of gift and personal creativity. You can learn what it takes to improvise-all the necessary techniques. But you cannot learn improvisation itself… Can anybody be given a great degree of creativity? No. They can be given the equipment to develop it, if they have it in them in the first place.”

Visit the official George Shearing website: www.georgeshearing.net

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