The George Shearing Quartet and Joe Williams, with the Junior Mance Trio, British Tour - September October 1962 004
Pages 4 and 5 of a programme for the George Shearing Quintet, Joe Williams and Junior Mance Trio tour of Great Britain September - October 1962. Both pages continue to profile George Shearing, with a photograph of Shearing on page 5.
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ï»¿ourselves asking the question once again. â What happened to make Shearing different from everybody else? " In a word, ambition.
Now Shearing has made a great deal of money in the past ten or twelve years, and there may be unperceptive readers who think that having ambitions means wanting to make a lot of money. Actually it means nothing of the kind, although it so happens that money is usually sadly misrepresented in the courts of our conscience, and is always assumed by those who havenât got any to be synonymous with corruption, villainy and artistic lassitude. Shearingâs ambition was, at least according to the official publicity dossiers, to do with the fact that in London a musician could make little more than a bare living out of playing a musical instrument, even if he agreed to play any kind of music anybody happened to demand. I respectfully beg to differ from the hand-outs, and submit that musicians, especially jazz musicians in Britain, do not decide to go to America so they can get rich. Being knowledgeable jazz musicians, they know only too well that New York is hardly waiting for them with open arms and open cheques. When it comes to sending a British jazz musician to New York, coals to Newcastle simply are not in it.
The real reason why a British musician leaves for the States is artistic, not financial. A jazz musician who reaches the stage Shearing had arrived at fifteen years ago, approaching that watershed of the youthful jazzman, the thirtieth birthday, knows that unless he does something dramatic to broaden the effect of the environment playing upon him. he is doomed not to progress any further. Shearing had that yearning to play with an American rhythm section, which in those days virtually meant a real rhythm section, there being precious little rhythmic resource available in Britain at the time. The man desired to measure his strength in a more demanding field, and such motivation is a musical one. Certainly it is connected to the fact that the British jazz circle is a tight one, a depressingly tight one, but that is a psychological rather than a financial factor.
I must admit that when T read of his going I wondered in my innocence whether he might not be making a grave tactical error. After all, they had Tatum and Bud Powell and Teddy Wilson and Earl Hines and Oscar Peterson in America. What would they want with George Shearing?
It did not take long for that query to be answered. About two years after his emigration, two years of struggle and sad disappointment. Shearing suddenly hit the mythical jackpot by formulating that dream of the agent and the booker, the journalist and the club-owner, a New Sound. He recorded this new sound, and that was that.
If you hear Shearing's famous September In The Rain today for the first time, perhaps you wonder what all the fuss was about, but that in itself is tribute to the extent to which the Shearing Sextet was plagiarised by every small group to be found. Today the sound is a commonplace, but only because thousands of musicians have, in paying Shearing the tribute of imitation, made it so familiar to us.
What Shearing did with recordings like September In The Rain was to make a deliberate attempt to produce stylised, highly mannered jazz, worlds removed from the violent emotions expressed by the early bebop pioneers, but nevertheless harmonically influenced by them. The melody was paraphrased, cleverly but essentially simply, so that the non-musical public could not only recognise the tune, but could recognise how it was being amended. Therein lies the secret of the fantastic success of Shearing's early sextet. Not that the tune was recognisable, but that it was recognisable in its new guise. Shearing showed immense musical judgment in knowing exactly how far he dare go with September In I he Rum without making it either unintelligible to the squares or odious to the hipsters. September In The Rain and the like successes which followed were yet another example of the traditional British genius for compromise.
The impact of September In The Rain was ridiculous, overwhelming, illogical. It was madness itself. I remember working in a small band at a Jewish wedding in North London in the winter of 1949, and we had to play as near as we could get to the Shearing version of September In I he Rain during the dinner music, after the speeches, and again during the dancing. I think 1 could still play the melodic line even now, thirteen years after. It is burned into my brain with hundreds of playings.
Suddenly it seemed like a thousand years since George had been part of the local scene. Now he was distant, a celebrity, the man who had bearded the lion in his den, the London musician
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