He may not have been as popular as Herbie Hancock, Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson. He may not have been as influential as Bill Evans. He may not have played with as many stellar leaders as McCoy Tyner. Nevertheless, I was always a fan of George Shearing, who died on Monday at the age of 91. The obit nails exactly why he was so pleasant and intriguing to listen to:
With Margie Hyams on vibraphone, Chuck Wayne on guitar, John Levy on bass and Denzil Best on drums, Mr. Shearing recorded “September in the Rain” in 1949. The distinctive sound of both the quintet and Mr. Shearing himself — he used a so-called locked-hands style in which his hands played melody and harmony in close quarters, with the melody line harmonized by the right hand and doubled by the left hand an octave below — caught listeners’ fancy, and stardom soon followed.
So he lacked rather more obvious fire, but he could play bebop as well as anyone:
My favorite of his recordings was a solo piano recording titled Grand Piano, in which he recorded what may be the saddest standard ever composed, It Never Entered My Mind, and interpolated Erik Satie's Gymnopedie #3 and quite beautifully so:
I can assure you, you've never heard a version of Mack the Knife quite like this:
Rest in peace.