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Jazz Spotlight

October 30, 1994|Zan Stewart


"That Shearing Sound"


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It's been 20 years since Shearing first recorded his patentable "sound," an urbane front-line blend of vibes, guitar and piano that, it's interesting to note, was suggested to the pianist in 1947 by the late Leonard Feather. This elegant amalgam inspires thoughts of Polynesian sunsets, perfect dry martinis and whispered intimacies, and it is quite refreshing to hear once again.

In the past, Shearing employed everyone from vibists Margie Hyams and Charlie Shoemake to guitarists Joe Pass and Toots Thielemans, but here he uses mostly new (for him, at least) faces: guitarist Louis Stewart, vibist Steve Nelson, drummer Dennis Mackrell and his current bassist, Neil Swainson. To its credit, this crack crew plays like a band, not a pickup group.

The material is typical of Shearing--light and easy on the ears yet still classy and extremely musical. "East of the Sun" and "Lullaby of Birdland" are two of the old favorites, while Horace Silver's subtly grooving "Strollin' " and Bill Evans' quietly opulent "Very Early" add modern flair. Among the standards are "Autumn Serenade," done almost as a rumba, and "Girl Talk," taken at a relaxed crawl.

Shearing is first-rate, his notes like chains of luminescent globes, his chordal clusters graceful and effervescent. Stewart adds deftly turned blues ideas to otherwise seamless statements; Nelson delivers fat-toned, flowing lines, and Swainson and Mackrell are the epitome of understated accompaniment.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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