George Shearing: The 1995 'Morning Edition' Interview

British jazz pianist George Shearing (left) and American singer Joe Williams attend a press reception in London in 1962 before beginning a tour of Britain together. i i

hide captionBritish jazz pianist George Shearing (left) and American singer Joe Williams attend a press reception in London in 1962 before beginning a tour of Britain together.

Central Press/Getty Images
British jazz pianist George Shearing (left) and American singer Joe Williams attend a press reception in London in 1962 before beginning a tour of Britain together.

British jazz pianist George Shearing (left) and American singer Joe Williams attend a press reception in London in 1962 before beginning a tour of Britain together.

Central Press/Getty Images
You see, because one thing we can do is to make other people happy by sharing with them the gift that we've been given by God which made us happy in the first place. And I think if you live by that kind of philosophy you won't spend too much time finding out how hard done by you are.
—George Shearing

In 1995, the late great jazz pianist George Shearing had cause to celebrate. He was 75 — meaning he had already been pleasing audiences for over 50 years — and he had a new album to mark the occasion: Walkin', a live trio date with Neal Swainson and Grady Tate.

So NPR's Morning Edition asked Shearing for an interview, with then-host Bob Edwards. The whole thing ended up being long enough for two parts over two days, on May 4-5, 1995.

In part one, Shearing talks about his then-new record. It may surprise some to hear him talking about how his trio integrates free improvisation; he also explains how he listens to song lyrics, and describes how he learned to love a complex Lee Konitz tune. ("Subconscious-Lee," if you're wondering.)

Part two focuses on the George Shearing quintet which introduced so many listeners to jazz after World War II. He discusses his signature "locked hands" technique — crediting Milt Buckner with the invention — and how he broadened the audience for jazz. Blind since birth, he's helped many with more than his music, especially during blackouts in World War II.

Hear the whole interview above, or both parts individually below. And hear more George Shearing features, including a remembrance of his career and an appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, at the George Shearing artist page.


P.S. The photo above shows Shearing and singer Joe Williams about to launch a tour together. The Hamilton College jazz archives actually houses an interview of Shearing by Williams. It's very good. You can both read and hear it online.

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