Lullabies of Birdland - A Musical Autobiography

George Shearing

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Lullabies of Birdland - A Musical Autobiography Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

In 1979, after a number of years in semi-obscurity, pianist George Shearing made a comeback by signing to Concord. Over the next ten years he showed that he'd lost none of the subtlety that had won him accolades when recording with his quintet in the 1950s and 1960s. Lullabies of Birdland: A Musical Autobiography recaps Shearing's long career, starting with "September in the Rain" in 1949 and ending with "Fly Me to the Moon" -- recorded appropriately at Birdland -- in 2000. The pianist's most famous composition, the title cut, appears in three different settings over the course of two discs: the first with the George Shearing Quintet in 1952, the second with Tito Puente in 1985, and the final one, featuring a stripped-down setting, in 1987. There are many surprises on these discs, including the startling arrangement and performance on a nearly ten-minute version of "Love for Sale." There are also a number of equal billings with partners like guitarist Jim Hall, pianist Marian McPartland, and singer Mel Tormé. The only small complaint is that much of the content of Lullabies of Birdland is comprised of material recorded between 1979 and 1989 (the years he spent with Concord). Only five cuts represent his work between 1949 and 1979, and only two represent his work in the '90s, meaning that these discs fail to give a full-fledged "autobiography" as promised in the album's subtitle. Lullabies of Birdland is nonetheless a fine collection, and an excellent introduction to Shearing's work at Concord.

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