George Shearing

Lullaby of Birdland: Blues Alley Jazz/On a Clear Day

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George Shearing and bassist Brian Torff have perfect chemistry as a jazz duo; Lullaby of Birdland combines two of their live dates, Blues Alley Jazz and On a Clear Day, into this budget-priced two-CD reissue. The two musicians play superbly in unison, but each also reacts quickly to anything played by the other. Their series of exchanges on Billy Taylor's delightful "One for the Woofer" amuses the audience, while the wild Latin treatment of "Up a Lazy River" is every bit as enjoyable. Torff, who strangely didn't seem to record much at all during the two decades following these 1979 and 1980 concerts, gets a chance to show his chops in his original compositions "High and Inside," "Blue Island Blues," and "Brasil '79" (the latter piece is absolutely amazing). Shearing's love for bad puns is apparent in his deliberately misspoken announcement of the title to "Love for Sale" and his spoken introduction to "On a Clear Day" is hilarious; of course, the performances of these two pieces are noteworthy, too. The pianist is heard as a soloist on "For Every Man There's a Woman" and in a reprisal of his bittersweet arrangement of "Happy Days Are Here Again," which was recorded in a mid-'70s studio date for BASF (Solo); Shearing also adds his warm vocals on "The Real Thing" and "Have You Met Miss Jones?," and wraps the second disc by playing his meal ticket of many decades, "Lullaby of Birdland." Very highly recommended.

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