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George Shearing Quintet: Back to Birdland

All the elements for a historical album exist here, but the present keeps interfering with the past. The title track, “Back to Birdland,” sounds romantic, but as future anthropologists will note, it’s not the original Birdland; it’s not even near the 52nd Street area; and none of the original Shearing Quintet members are on hand.

Most of the arrangements are intact, but this is where the past interferes with the present. Those charts and their overall sonority are tired. Shearing’s playing is beyond criticism and his technique is just as crisp as ever. His taste is impeccable and his gift for understatement in his announcements is as British as ever. But those block chords with the vibes doubling the lead and the surgical precision of the rhythmic hesitations impede the flow of the swing.

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