His piano talks

It was a battered old op-shop LP which introduced me to George Shearing, the blind working class lad from London who became a star jazz pianist. In my post about that record, You’re Hearing George Shearing (1952), I wrote:

It is a cliché, but I can think of no better way to say it: his piano talks. Sometimes, it even paints.

But You’re Hearing was too scratchy for Shearing’s more lyrical side to be enjoyed, so I went with an up-tempo jazz number.

Then this LP turned up. It is a re-release of a 1957 album, The Shearing Piano. Sadly, the reissue it has a naff 1970s cover. It involves a blonde model in a low dress sitting at a piano pretending, without much conviction, to play it. Normally we don’t worry too much about the visual on Planet Vinyl, but this sleeve is a shocker, both insult and injury to the music. Let’s go with the fine, minimalist 1957 design instead.shearing-1957

More important than the cover though: the vinyl is in good shape. There is some faint wear, but you can listen to and enjoy this collection of mellow, reflective interpretations of well-known tunes. Shearing is alone at his piano, and explores and does wonders re-imagining familiar material. Even sentimental numbers like “The Street Where You Live” are transformed.

The track I have chosen is a jazz standard, “Stella by Starlight”, except that Shearing plays it not as jazz. More as if this 1944 movie theme had been kidnapped and transported to a mid-nineteenth century salon, where Chopin is tickling the keys.

  • Artist: George Shearing
  • LP Title: The Shearing Piano
  • Side 1, Track 1: “Stella By Starlight”
  • Format: 12” LP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Encore Capitol
  • Catalogue: VMP.1010
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1977 (original release 1957)

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