The George Shearing Quintet – The Shearing Spell (1956)

OriginalFrontCover1Sir George Shearing, OBE (13 August 1919 – 14 February 2011) was a British jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group that recorded for Discovery Records, MGM Records and Capitol Records. The composer of over 300 titles, including the jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland”, had multiple albums on the Billboard charts during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He died of heart failure in New York City, at the age of 91.

Born in Battersea, London, Shearing was the youngest of nine children. He was born blind to working class parents: his father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains in the evening. He started to learn piano at the age of three and began formal training at Linden Lodge School for the Blind, where he spent four years.

Though he was offered several scholarships, Shearing opted to perform at a local pub, the Mason’s Arms in Lambeth, for “25 bob a week” playing piano and accordion. He joined an all-blind band during that time and was influenced by the records of Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller. Shearing made his first BBC radio broadcast during this time after befriending Leonard Feather, with whom he started recording in 1937.

In 1940, Shearing joined Harry Parry’s popular band and contributed to the comeback of Stéphane Grappelli. Shearing won seven consecutive Melody Maker polls during this time. Around that time he was also a member of George Evans’s Saxes ‘n’ Sevens band.

Shaering05In 1947, Shearing emigrated to the United States, where his harmonically complex style mixing swing, bop and modern classical influences gained popularity. One of his first performances was at the Hickory House. He performed with the Oscar Pettiford Trio and led a jazz quartet with Buddy DeFranco, which led to contractual problems, since Shearing was under contract to MGM and DeFranco to Capitol Records.

In 1949, he formed the first George Shearing Quintet, a band with Margie Hyams (vibraphone), Chuck Wayne (guitar), later replaced by Toots Thielemans (listed as John Tillman), John Levy (bass) and Denzil Best (drums) and recorded for Discovery, Savoy and MGM, including the immensely popular single “September in the Rain” (MGM), which sold over 900,000 copies; “my other hit” to accompany “Lullaby of Birdland”. Shearing said of this hit that it was “as accidental as it could be.”

Shearing’s interest in classical music resulted in some performances with concert orchestras in the 1950s and 1960s, and his solos frequently drew upon the music of Satie, Delius and Debussy for inspiration. He became known for a piano technique known as “Shearing’s voicing”, a type of double melody block chord, with an additional fifth part that doubles the melody an octave lower. (This style is also known as “locked hands” and the jazz organist Milt Buckner is generally credited with inventing it.[citation needed])

In 1956, Shearing became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He continued to play with his quintet, with augmented players through the years, and recorded with Capitol until 1969. He created his own label, Sheba, that lasted a few years. Along with dozens of musical stars of his day, Shearing appeared on ABC’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom. Earlier, he had appeared on the same network’s reality show, The Comeback Story, in which he discussed how to cope with blindness.


Shaering05In 1970, he began to “phase out his by-now-predictable quintet” and disbanded the group in 1978. One of his more notable albums during this period was The Reunion, with George Shearing (Verve 1976), made in collaboration with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Rusty Jones, and featuring Stéphane Grappelli, the musician with whom he had debuted as a sideman decades before. Later, Shearing played with a trio, as a soloist and increasingly in a duo. Among his collaborations were sets with the Montgomery Brothers, Marian McPartland, Brian Q. Torff, Jim Hall, Hank Jones and Kenny Davern. In 1979, Shearing signed with Concord Records, and recorded for the label with Mel Tormé. This collaboration garnered Shearing and Tormé two Grammys, one in 1983 and another in 1984.

Shearing remained fit and active well into his later years and continued to perform, even after being honoured with an Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. He never forgot his native country and, in his last years, would split his year between living in New York and Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, where he bought a house with his second wife, singer Ellie Geffert. This gave him the opportunity to tour the UK, giving concerts, often with Tormé, backed by the BBC Big Band. He was appointed OBE in 1996. In 2007, he was knighted. “So”, he noted later, “the poor, blind kid from Battersea became Sir George Shearing. Now that’s a fairy tale come true.”


He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1992 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel.

In 2004, he released his memoirs, Lullaby of Birdland, which was accompanied by a double-album “musical autobiography”, Lullabies of Birdland. Shortly afterwards, however, he suffered a fall at his home and retired from regular performing.

In 2012 Derek Paravicini and jazz vocalist Frank Holder did a tribute concert to the recordings of Shearing. Ann Odell transcribed the recordings and taught Paravicini the parts, as well as being the MD for the concerts. Lady Shearing also endorsed the show, sending a letter to be read out before the Watermill Jazz Club performance.

Shearing was married to Trixie Bayes from 1941 to 1973. Two years after his divorce he married his second wife, the singer Ellie Geffert, who survived him.

Shearing was a member of the Bohemian Club and often performed at the annual Bohemian Grove Encampments. He composed music for two of the Grove Plays (by wikipedia)


This was the first recording that George Shearing and his Quintet made for Capitol, an association that lasted up until 1969 and would result in quite a few enjoyable but now long-out-of-print LPs that have not been reissued since. At the time Shearing’s popular group consisted of the leader/pianist, vibraphonist Johnny Rae, guitarist Toots Thielemans, bassist Al McKibbon, drummer Bill Clark and on some selections Armando Peraza and Willie Bobo on percussion. Their easy-listening brand of bopbased music is heard at its best on this Lp on “Autumn in New York,” “Out of This World,” “Moonray” and “Cuban Fantasy.” (by Scott Yanow)


Willie Bobo (timbales)
Bill Clark (drums)
Al McKibbon (bass)
Armando Peraza (percussion)
Johnny Rae (vibraphone)
George Shearing (piano)
Toots Thielemans (guitar, harmonica)

AlternateFrontCover1Alternate frontcover

01. Autumn In New York (Duke) 5.03
02. Strange (Fisher/La Touche) 2.49
03. Yesterdays (Kern) 3.13
04. Goodnight, My Love (Arnheim/Tobias/Lemare) 3.11
05. Moonray (Shaw/Madison/Quenzer) 5.07
06. Cuban Carnival (Rugolo) 2.25
07. Midnight In The Air (Feather) 2.25
08. The Man I Love (Gershwin) 4.09



More George Shearing:


Cliff Richard with The Shadows – Wonderful Live (OST) (1964)

OriginalFrontCover1Sir Cliff Richard OBE (born Harry Rodger Webb on 14 October 1940) is a British singer, musician, performer, actor and philanthropist. Richard has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. He has total sales of over 21 million singles in the United Kingdom and is the third-top-selling artist in UK Singles Chart history, behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

Richard was originally marketed as a rebellious rock and roll singer in the style of Elvis Presley and Little Richard.[3] With his backing group, the Shadows, Richard dominated the British popular music scene in the pre-Beatles period of the late 1950s to early 1960s.[4] His 1958 hit single “Move It” is often described as Britain’s first authentic rock and roll song; in the opinion of John Lennon of the Beatles, “before Cliff and the Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music”. Increased focus on his Christianity and subsequent softening of his music led to a more middle-of-the-road image and he sometimes ventured into contemporary Christian music.

Over a career spanning 60 years, Richard has amassed many gold and platinum discs and awards, including two Ivor Novello Awards and three Brit Awards. More than 130 of his singles, albums and EPs have reached the UK Top 20, more than any other artist. Richard has had 67 UK top ten singles, the second highest total for an artist behind Elvis.

Cliff Richard

Richard holds the record (with Elvis) as the only act to make the UK singles charts in all of its first six decades (1950s–2000s). He has achieved 14 UK number-one singles, and is the only singer to have had a number-one single in the UK in five consecutive decades.

Richard has never achieved the same popularity in the United States despite eight US Top 40 singles, including the million-selling “Devil Woman” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore”. In Canada, he had a successful period in the early 1960s, and again in the late 1970s and early 1980s with some releases certified gold and platinum. He has remained a popular music, film, and television personality in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Northern Europe and Asia, and retains a following in other countries. Richard has been a resident in the United Kingdom for most of his life, though in 2010, he confirmed that he had become a citizen of Barbados. When not touring, he divides his time between Barbados and Portugal. In 2019, he relocated to the United States.


Wonderful Life is a soundtrack album by Cliff Richard with The Shadows to the 1964 film Wonderful Life. It is their third film soundtrack album and Richard’s eleventh album overall. The album reached number 2 in the UK Albums Chart, spending 8 weeks in the top 3 and 23 weeks on in the top 20, but was a marked decline from their previous soundtrack album Summer Holiday that had spent 14 weeks at number 1.

The album had two lead singles, the first being the instrumental “Theme for Young Lovers” from the Shadows, followed by “On the Beach” with Richard being backed by the Shadows.

Curiously, some of the recordings on the album are not those used on the actual film soundtrack, including the title song. The vocal takes are different and in some cases the orchestrations are also altered slightly. The recordings on the album are generally more polished than the soundtrack ones. The Shadows recording line-up included Brian Locking on bass guitar although by the time filming commenced John Rostill had replaced him.


The vinyl LP released on the Columbia label in the UK featured an inner sleeve with a storyline outlining the plot and the position of each of the musical numbers, illustrated with stills from the film.

Released in the US with the title Swingers Paradise the album did not chart. (by wikipedia)


Cliff Richard’s first post-Beatles movie, Swingers Paradise (Wonderful Life in the U.K.) maintained business as usual for the team — another fun-packed romp in foreign climes, it was again peppered with naggingly familiar songs, absurd and adorable in more or less equal doses, and accompanied, of course, by a soundtrack which squeezed every last ounce of effervescence from the plot. The formula was, by then, firmly entrenched. The Michael Sammes Singers twitter, Norrie Paramor produces, and the Associated British Studio Orchestra lavish everything beneath monstrous slabs of sweet strings and winds. Meanwhile, the Shadows rattle along as both an understated backing band and, when the mood hits, frontmen in their own right, throwing two characteristic guitar-led instrumentals into the brew — “Walkin'” and “Theme for Young Lovers.” Equally predictably, the hits flew from the album — “Theme for Young Lovers” reached number 12 in the U.K., Richard’s understatedly grand “On the Beach” made number seven, and both the title track and “Do You Remember” remained favorites long after the movie slipped off the screens. But that, unfortunately, is where comparisons with past soundtracks end. The others were fun because they were so ridiculously enjoyable. This one’s no fun at all. It is, however, contrived, condescending, and, for the most part, utterly overblown. It does have a few great moments — “Wonderful Life” comes over like something from a Broadway spectacular, all racing orchestration, broad backing vocals, and imbibed with the same timeless bravado which one normally associates with the classics of the ’40s and ’50s.


But that, too, is a damning confession. The hit singles aside, there is no denying the audience which Swingers Paradise was gunning for — the mums and dads (and beyond) who still had time for pop, but maybe found the latest crop of superstars a little too outlandish for their tastes. All that long hair, all those suggestive lyrics, all that hand-holding and yeah, yeah, yeah-ing. No such dangers here. The frothy over-excitement of “Home,” the stirring big-band buoyancy of “A Little Imagination,” the string-driven simplicity of “In the Stars,” everything harks back to an earlier age, a more innocent time. In fact, in the brutally blunt parlance of the time, Cliff Richard was by then so well-rounded an entertainer that he was turning positively square. And Swingers Paradise doesn’t swing quite so impressively after all. (by Dave Thompson)


Brian Bennett (drums)
Brian Locking (bass)
Hank Marvin (lead guitar)
Cliff Richard (vocals)
Bruce Welch (guitar)
The Associated British Studio Orchestra conducted by Stanley Black
The Norrie Paramor Strings
The Mike Sammes Singers

01. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: Wonderful Life (Bennett/Welch) 2.28
02. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: A Girl In Every Port (Myers/Cass) 2.49
03. The Shadows: Walkin’ (Marvin/Welch) 2.46
04. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: A Little Imagination (Myers/Cass) 3.54
05. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: Home (Myers/Cass) 3.31
06. Cliff Richard & The Shadows: On The Beach (Marvin/Richard/Welch) 2.29
07. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: In The Stars (Myers/Cass) 4.00
08. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: We Love A Movie (Myers/Cass) 3.22
09. Cliff Richard, The Shadows & The Norrie Paramor Strings: Do You Remember (Marvin/Welch) 2.50
10. Cliff Richard & The Shadows: What’ve I Gotta Do (Marvin/Welch) 2.33
11. The Shadows: Theme For Young Lovers (Welch) 2.40
12. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: All Kinds Of People (Myers/Cass) 3.15
13. Cliff Richard, The Shadows & The Norrie Paramor Strings: A Matter Of Moments  (Welch) 2.58
14. Cliff Richard & The A.B.S. Orchestra: Youth And Experience (Myers/Cass) 3.36
15. Cliff Richard & The Shadows: Look Don’t Touch (Ifield) 1.44
16. Cliff Richard, The Shadows & The Norrie Paramor Strings: Do You Remember (alternate take) (Marvin/Welch) 2.57
17. Cliff Richard, The Shadows & The Norrie Paramor Strings: Wonderful Life (Bennett/Welch) 2.22
18. Cliff Richard: Angel (Non-Album Import A-Side) (Tepper/Bennett) 2.19