George Shearing / George Shearing Quintet

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The quintet formula that George Shearing popularized on his many recordings for over three decades before disbanding it in 1978 has been occasionally revived by the pianist; this edition features Shearing's longtime bassist Neil Swainson and preferred drummer Dennis Mackrel, along with vibraphonist Don Thompson and guitarist Reg Schwager (both of whom are first-rate soloists as well as strong ensemble players). This live recording at Birdland (of course, not the identical club honored in Shearing's famous composition) is so intimate it's as if the listener is seated right in front of the stage. He shares his usual mix of cool and bop, including the swinging "Fly Me to the Moon" and an exotic take of "Speak Low," as well as infrequently heard gems such as the lush "That Sunday That Summer." Shearing is still one of the best ballad interpreters, as heard on his solo versions of "Just Imagine" and "High on a Windy Hill." Jazz classics include a sauntering, confident take of Ellington's "Drop Me Off in Harlem," a driving "Joy Spring," a turbocharged "Donna Lee," and the inevitable request for Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland," in which he throws the audience a wild curve by setting it up with his well-worn punchline and then briefly launching into "Satin Doll" as a gag. This is one of the rare live recordings that captures the true flavor of an artist on stage, and it should be an essential acquisition for anyone who enjoys George Shearing.

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