When Sir George Shearing, the composer of “Lullabye of Birdland,” died on Valentine’s Day, 2011, we lost one of the great pianists — and gentlemen — of jazz.
Born in London, in 1947 he came to the United States where he was known far and wide for his work with singers Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole, as well as his many collaborations with Mel Torme. Later in his career, he was recognized for his concert appearances with Marian McPartland and Billy Taylor, which introduced him to entirely new audiences.
I had the great honor of interviewing Sir George for the St. Petersburg Times way back on October 14, 1983. I knew he was a great pianist because I listened to his albums; I learned he was a great gentleman when he treated me with kid gloves as I awkwardly and ignorantly asked him questions for more than 30 minutes.
As you listen to this nearly 30-year-old recording, please focus on George’s answers and not to my questions. I was barely 18 months out of college and knew very little about jazz. But George was great. I had to keep reminding myself not just of all he accomplished in the music industry but that he did it all without his sight. He was, for all intents and purposes, the pale, British version of Ray Charles.
Anyway, this interview is one of my all-time favorites and I’m so glad it survived the years with a little digital boost in spots.
I hope you’ll enjoy this Mr. Media “Lost Tape”featuring Sir George Shearing.
GEORGE SHEARING audio excerpt: “I’ve been talking about trying (the electric pianos and keyboards) from the point of color. But if I did, I know one thing I would lose would be my touch, my approach to piano, which is very personal, very delicate, and may I say, somewhat artistic. I listen to some of the things being done… A great deal of it is trash and some of it is music. My greatest criticism of music today is it is all too damn loud. I wonder how many deaf people we will have in future generations because of the horrendous assaults on the ears.”
You can LISTEN to this 1983 ‘Lost Tapes’ interview with jazz pianist GEORGE SHEARING by clicking the audio player above!
Bob Andelman is the author or co-author of 10 books, including ‘The Profiler’ with Pat Brown, ‘Built From Scratch’ with the founders of The Home Depot, and ‘Will Eisner: A Spirited Life.’ • Follow Bob on Twitter or Facebook.