Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Jazz Pianist George Shearing Dies

English-born pianist and composer of “Lullaby of Birdland” was 91 years old

George Shearing

George Shearing, the British jazz pianist and composer who wrote the bebop standard “Lullaby of Birdland,” died on Monday, February 14 in New York City, where he had resided for many years. The cause of death was heart failure. He was 91.

The writer Alyn Shipton, who helped Shearing write his memoirs, said that Shearing had a remarkable memory. “He could reproduce whole records from memory, accurately catching the nuances of Fats, Tatum, Bud Powell and Erroll Garner among others,” said Shipton. “But his real talent was, firstly to conceptualize the ‘Shearing Sound’ – transferring the Glenn Miller orchestral voicings to piano, vibes and guitar, and secondly to apply an instantaneous musical wit and imagination to everything he did. One of his favorite party tricks which I saw him do many times was to play the Irish folk song ‘Kerry Dance’ and weave into it the ‘Kyrie’ from Bach’s B Minor mass. George particularly liked that because it was a verbal pun on Kyrie and Kerry and a musical pun on mixing genres. He loved puns and wordplay and his conversation was peppered with them.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published