Saturday, December 11, 2010

Shearing in the Sixties - Part 2

Satin Affair - The George Shearing Quintet with String Choir (Capitol, 1960 – issued 1961): Like Shearing’s earlier quintet-with-strings records, Velvet Carpet, White Satin, Blue Chiffon and Black Satin, the luxurious Satin Affair is intended to create “a modern mood of romance.” In other words, it’s dinner-for-two music. It’s unapologetically beautiful too. Billy May’s strings – which are co-authored by Shearing himself, so they work well with what the quintet aims to achieve – are never too much. Regrettably, Shearing’s piano is in the background much of the time too. But, predictably, when Shearing comes out to play, he comes out swinging. No casual or dreamy program is likely to put a stop to that. But it never departs from the mood. The program is Shearing’s typical array of standards (“Early Autumn,” “Stardust,” “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” and “My Romance”), Shearing originals (the Chopin-esque “It’s Not You”), not quite standards from the canonical writers (Kern and Mercer’s “You Were Never Lovelier,” Styne/ Comden/ Green’s “The Party’s Over,” Burke/ Hampton/ Mercer’s “Midnight Sun,” Arlen and Gershwin’s “Here’s What I’m Here For” and Rodgers and Hart’s “I Like To Recognize the Tune,” which Shearing’s “new” quintet revived for the 1994 Telarc CD That Shearing Sound), Quintet vibist Warren Chaisson’s “My Own” and Torrie Zito’s lush Latinate “Bolero #3.” While nothing stands out particularly here, it’s worth remembering that nothing was meant to stand out on records like this. To me, Satin Affair provides a warmer, more festive musical spirit during the holidays than any number of Christmas albums do, which is why my house alights with Shearing’s quintet-with-strings music during the holidays in addition to the essential Christmas with The George Shearing Quintet (Telarc Jazz, 1998). Satin Affair was issued on CD as part of a two-fer with Shearing’s Concerto for My Love by the British BGO label in 1996 and is no longer in print.

The Shearing Touch - George Shearing - String Choir Conducted by Billy May (Capitol, 1960): Here, George Shearing lends his distinctive pianistic “touch” to a dozen piano themes made famous by other jazz pianists. Aided by Billy May’s terrifically employed string choir, Shearing is often on his own here, without the mirroring vibes and the Latin percussion of other Quintet records of the time. Shearing and May reflect on such piano jazz classics as Fat Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump,” Claude Thornhill’s “Snowfall” (as well as “Autumn Nocturne” and “Tonight We Love,” based on Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, both of which Thornhill first popularized), Eddie Heywood’s “Canadian Sunset,” Felix Arndt’s ragtime hit “Nola” (popularized by pianist Vincent Lopez), Andre Previn’s terrific “Like Young” (which, along with “Snowfall,” Henry Mancini covered beautifully the year before on an album coincidentally titled The Mancini Touch) and Erroll Garner’s “Misty.” Several other standards that have piano-based origins, such as “Autumn Leaves,” “Sunrise Serenade” and “Bewitched” are included here as well. Shearing plays magnificently throughout and while he often sounds rather too polite in his respect, he does come to life with strong individual performances of “Autumn Leaves,” “Misty” (which just begs for an interpretation by the Quintet that surprisingly never happened, at least on record), “Like Young,” “Honeysuckle Rose” and “One O’Clock Jump.” May provides some truly engaging string commentary throughout, buttressing the pianist with a swinging verve that keeps even the slowest of these numbers from meandering too much. May leans often on the pizzicato lushness of the strings to give a waltz-like quality to so much of the program and outdoes himself on “Nola,” “Canadian Sunset,” “Like Young” (particularly during the bridge) and “Snowfall” especially. Surprisingly, The Shearing Touch has not yet been issued on CD, despite a 1991 compilation CD issued by Capitol’s budget division, Pair, misleadingly given the same title as this LP. Beware, the 1991 CD is not the same as the 1960 LP.

San Francisco Scene - The George Shearing Quintet (Capitol, 1960 – issued 1962): The George Shearing Quintet’s first live recording since On The Sunny Side of The Strip (1958) is this well-programmed date captured at San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium on April 28, 1960. Cuban percussionist Armando Peraza, who toured and recorded with the Shearing Quintet from 1953 through 1963, is added to make the Quintet a sextet on “Cocktails for Two,” “Lullaby of Birdland” and “My New Mambo.” The program alternates swingers like Ray Bryant’s gospel-funk “The Be-bop Irishman” (written for the Jo Jones Trio) and Horace Silver’s “The Outlaw” with such standards as “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” and “Cocktails for Two” (which Shearing recorded with Frank Weir in 1946) and ballads like “I’ll Be Around,” Shearing’s Bach-infused solo take on “This Nearly Was Mine” and the gorgeously appropriate “When April Comes Again” with such group originals as guitarist Dick Garcia’s “Monophraseology,” conga master Armando Peraza’s “My New Mambo” and Shearing’s own standard “Lullaby of Birdland.” The Quintet performs with predictable professionalism, but one could wish the songs were a little longer or a bit more involved. The concert’s highlights are the crowd-pleasing up-tempo grinders “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid,” “My New Mambo,” “The Outlaw,” “Monophraseology” and the superb and infectiously Latin-ized take on “Lullaby of Birdland” that elicits an electrifying feature for Peraza which audibly makes the crowd go crazy. The complete content of the San Francisco Scene LP is included on Mosaic’s 1994 five-CD box set The Complete Capitol Live Recordings of George Shearing, which has sadly been long out of print. Surprisingly, the album has not yet been issued in a single CD format.

Mood Latino - The George Shearing Quintet (Capitol, 1961): Although Shearing’s Quintet was either recorded or named for a number of additional records after this, Mood Latino represents if not the last of the classic Shearing Quintet records, then certainly the last of the Quintet’s records in a purely “Latin mood” (1965’s Latin Rendezvous, which includes songs from the Mood Latino sessions, is really little more than a collection of outtakes). The unidentified quintet is, of course, augmented here by the bongos and conga of the righteous and rightfully credited Armando Peraza, who was a significant part of this musical aggregate’s success. But Mood Latino gets a refreshing uplift from the unnamed flautist, who adds an attractive zest to the overall proceedings. The rather unusual program is well conceived to deliver Latin twists on such standards as “Blue Moon,” “Day by Day” and “You and the Night and the Music,” the ballads “The Night Is Young and You’re So Beautiful” and “All Through the Day,” and such off-beat stuff as Charles DeForest’s “Yesterday’s Child,” Torrie Zito’s “Salud,” pianist Dante Varela’s “Tintilin,” and Quintet guitarist Dick Garcia’s very pretty “Blue Rainbow.” Armando Peraza contributes two typically festive and melodic boleros, “Jackie’s Mambo” and “Te Arango la Cabeza,” while the group excels particularly nicely on Ernesto Lecuona’s popular “Say ‘Si Si’.” Shearing himself takes some fiery – though entirely too brief (everything about this record is too brief) – yet imaginative solos on “Salud,” “Tintilin,” “Jackie’s Mambo,” “Say ‘Si Si’” and “Te Arango la Cabez – making these highlights of a fine, yet surprisingly little-known album in the Shearing Quintet discography. It’s easy to fit this music into the “easy listening” mold that yielded so many of Martin Denny’s records. But Shearing, nudged no doubt by Peraza, raises the bar just a little bit higher here. Predictably, Mood Latino has never been issued on CD.

Concerto For My Love - George Shearing with Orchestra and Choir (Capitol, 1961 – issued 1962): George Shearing sets his piano here against an orchestra of strings, woodwinds and voices in tribute to that already overpraised and hugely overanalyzed thing called l’amour. It is the pianist’s first orchestral recording since the far more engaging The Shearing Touch, even though Shearing waxed only three other records (San Francisco Scene, The Swingin’s Mutual! and Mood Latino) in between this one and that. The pianist himself provides the arrangements here, understandably gesturing toward the sort of romanticism frequently heard in his ballad style and something that is utterly appropriate for an album of songs all (except one) including “love” in their title. A choir of male and female voices “ooh” in orgiastic support and “ah” in heavenly consummation for “Portrait of Jennie,” “Answer Me, My Love,” “Love Letters,” “Portrait of My Love,” “In Love In Vain” and Shearing and Charles De Forest’s oddly titled “Love Child,” perhaps a sly reference to what comes out of all of this love. On these numbers Shearing’s piano too frequently tinkles along in a Chopinesque manner, while the orchestral flourishes often primp and preen in such a way that suggest a weepie from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Shearing alternates the vocalese pieces with trio-and-orchestra arrangements that find the pianist getting much needed rhythmic support from a bassist and a drummer on “I’m in the Mood For Love,” “I Wish You Love,” “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” “Love is the Sweetest Thing,” “P.S. I Love You,” and “Lady Love Be Mine.” The rhythm section not only helps the pianist regain the strength of his distinctively romantic touch on the keyboard but also helps beef up the otherwise florid orchestral arrangements. Shearing hides some real jewels on this set, including “Love is the Sweetest Thing,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Lady Love Be Mine,” and the first half of both “Love Letters” and “In Love In Vain.” The trouble is the rest of the album really weighs these goodies down. Concerto For My Love was issued on CD as part of a two-fer with Shearing’s Satin Affair by the British BGO label in 1996 and is no longer in print.

Continue to Shearing in the Sixties – Part 3


Eric Qel-Droma said...

The Shearing Touch has been released on MP3 and iTunes in the UK. I managed to snag a copy through However, it's being billed there as Autumn Leaves. The tracklisting is the same as Capitol's 1960 release, which I enjoyed on LP for many years.

I mean to inform only, not to advertise.

FootballRugby said...

Is there a link for Mood Latino - The George Shearing Quintet I been looking for this one for years