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Blind from birth, George Shearing has parlayed a "locked hands" style of playing he learned from Milt Buckner into a long and successful career. He began recording in his late teens, coming to the United States after the war with the help of Leonard Feather. He was an active member of the New York jazz club scene in the late 1940s--his song about one of the more famous clubs, "Lullaby of Birdland," has since become a jazz standard.
Although respected and sought-after by mainstream jazz musicians, he picked up an international hit in 1949 with his cover of "September in the Rain," and made a conscious choice to forego pure jazz for popular success. "Lennie Tristano would never be happy compromising as I'm doing," he has said. Starting on MGM, he switched to Capitol in 1953, and stayed there until choosing to concentrate on small group work in the early 1970s.
For exotica lovers, Shearing's work on Capitol is of primary interest. Although decidedly easy on the ears, particularly in his string albums, Shearing was not entirely complacent during this era. He was an active proponent of Latin music, and his Latin Escapade was the first commercially successful Latin jazz LP. He preferred to emphasize the Latin element in his live performances, working with the congolero Armando Peraza, as in his appearance in the film, "Jazz on a Summer Day." Usually low-keyed and mellow, he could also swing hard, and never took himself too seriously. For some collectors, though, it's the covers of his Capitol LPs, many featuring beautiful women in fancy seductive settings, that are the main attraction.
Since the late 1970s, Shearing has recorded for Concord Jazz, focusing on jazz rather than popular music.
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