, July 2008
Lullaby of Birdland covers the formative period from 1947 to 1952, and includes most of the popular recordings which became known as the ‘Shearing sound’.
The early 1947/48 trio recordings display his nascent locked hands style but he really hit the commercial jackpot with the urbane, smooth-flowing ‘September in the rain’ in September 1949, with the vibraphone of Marjorie Hyams and guitarist Chuck Wayne. Other recordings in this vein during the next two years included such hit parade successes as ‘Pick yourself up’, ‘Roses of Picardy’ and ‘Jumping with symphony Sid’. It is noticeable that although the unison, locked hand technique is used in the opening and closing passages, Shearing’s solos are more of a helter-skelter, single note dash. One unusual recording was Cherokee in 1949 when Shearing switched to a piano accordion, while vibraphone player Marjorie Hyams demonstrated that she was a very competent pianist.
There are 20 recordings in this CD from 1947 to 1952, and although the quintet personnel eventually changed—the original vibraphone player Marjorie Hyams retired tog et married (not a good example of feminism) to be succeeded by Joe Roland, then Don Elliott, Cal Tjader and Gary Burton—it is instantly recognisable as the ‘Shearing sound’.
In the 1950s this signature sound began to pall and sound dated, becoming associated more with supper-club music than jazz. Today it is rarely heard—least of all by the 85-yeard-old Sir George Shearing. This CD is an excellent ‘picture’ of the Shearing sound.