Lullaby of Birdland: The Autobiography of George Shearing

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Bloomsbury Academic, Feb 25, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 272 pages
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Pianist George Shearing is that rare thing, a European jazz musician who became a household name in the US, as a result of the "Shearing sound" the recordings of his historic late 1940s quintet. Together with his unique "locked hands" approach to playing the piano, Shearing's quintet with guitar and vibraphone in close harmony to his own playing revolutionized small group jazz, and ensured that after seven years as Melody Maker's top British pianist, he achieved even greater success in America. His compositions have been recorded by everyone from Sarah Vaughan to Miles Davis, and his best known pieces include "Lullaby of Birdland", "She" and "Conception". His story is all the more remarkable because Shearing was born blind. His candid reminiscences include a behind the scenes experience of New York's 52nd Street in its heyday, as well as memories of a vast roll-call of professional colleagues that includes all the great names in jazz.

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Lullaby of birdland

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In the exclusive coterie of great jazz musicians, none has had to overcome a handicap so devastatingly limiting as that of pianist George Shearing-the handicap of having been born in England. That ... Read full review

About the author (2005)

George Shearing is an internationally known jazz pianist. He is still active on the international stage and in late 1999 filled Carnegie Hall for a gala celebration of his 80th birthday. Alyn Shipton is a writer and broadcaster on jazz. Pianist George Shearing is that rare thing, a European jazz musician who became a household name in the US, as a result of the 'Shearing sound' - the recordings of his historic late 1940s quintet. Together with his unique 'locked hands' approach to playing the piano, Shearing's quintet with guitar and vibraphone in close harmony to his own playing revolutionised small group jazz, and ensured that after seven years as Melody Maker's top British pianist, he achieved even greater success in America. His compositions have been recorded by everyone from Sarah Vaughan to Miles Davis, and his best known pieces include Lullaby of Birdland, She and Conception. His story is all the more remarkable because Shearing was born blind. As a teenager he joined Claude Bampton's band, and he recounts hilarious anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of this all blind group. By the start of the war years, Shearing was established as one of Britain's most popular and impressive jazz pianists - broadcasting regularly and playing and recording with Stephane Grappelli. In 1947 he emigrated to the US and started his landmark series of records with his quintet as well as performing classical pieces with several leading symphony orchestras. His candid reminiscences include a behind the scenes experience of New York's 52nd Street in its heyday, as well as memories of a vast roll-call of professional colleagues that includes all the great names in jazz. Alyn Shipton presents jazz radio programs for the BBC and is a critic for The Times in London. He is the author of several books on music, as well as a music publisher and editor. He divides his time between Oxford and the French countryside. In 2010, he was voted UK Jazz Broadcaster of the Year.

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