Record labels occasionally recycle older material for a number of reasons, some good and some not so good. Concord's logic has been simple: Why not compile an album around a specific aspect of an artist's style? Duets emphasizes pianist George Shearing's knack for accompanying singers, guitarists, and pianists in an intimate setting. The idea of only including duet material, however, isn't strictly adhered to. On the first cut, "I Could Write a Book," with Mel Tormé, two other players join in, making the group a quartet. The cut nonetheless displays how well Shearing and Tormé's styles complement each other. There are other variations -- a trio and a quartet -- along the way, but this doesn't really detract from the theme. Among the strict duo pieces, there are lovely renderings of "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "Emily" with guitarist Jim Hall. Both players have a complementary light touch and their clean lines are the epitome of cool jazz. Pianist Hank Jones adds a bit of muscle on "Lonely Moments," resulting in heavy rhythms and joyful leads reminding one of ragtime and Fats Waller. "You Don't Know What Love Is" finds both pianists in a quieter, late-night mood, offering a smooth intertwining of lead and rhythm. There are also pairings with pianists Marian McPartland, and vocalists Carmen McRae and Ernestine Anderson. Duets gives the fan a chance to revisit a number of intimate Shearing recordings, while providing the casual jazz listener with a good introduction to a number of fine artists.
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.