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Carnegie Hall Celebrates Shearing

December 1, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ George Shearing, whose 80th birthday was Aug. 13, was celebrated at a Carnegie Hall concert. But the ebullient jazz pianist did most of the entertaining himself.

The evening began Tuesday with Shearing walking on stage with his wife Ellie and playing an elegant solo, ``Dream Dancing.″ It ended, after performances by Nancy Wilson, Dave Brubeck, Billy Taylor, John Pizzarelli and Tito Puente, with Shearing’s quintet playing ``Lullaby of Birdland.″

Shearing introduced the classic by saying, ``I have been credited with writing 300 songs. Two hundred ninety-nine enjoyed a bumpy ride from relative obscurity to total oblivion. Here is the other one.″

Shearing and Brubeck played a duet of Brubeck’s ``In Your Own Sweet Way.″

``When we were in San Francisco, George came out to play. (Saxophonist) Paul Desmond recorded him every night. George doesn’t know that till right now,″ Brubeck told the audience.

``We got work because they said, `If jazz can fill clubs night after night, why don’t we hire Dave.′ It really happened that way. I think it happened right across the country, wherever George played. He helped all of us. Thank you, George.″

Shearing and Billy Taylor played a contrapuntal piano duet of ``One for the Woofer″ then Taylor played the intricate third movement of his own ``Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra.″

Shearing, a London-born pianist, has been blind since birth. He moved to the United States in 1947. He was influenced by bebop and his sound became identified with a quintet _ piano, vibes, guitar, bass and drums _ which he put together in 1949. Lately, he’s been playing mostly with only a bassist or solo.

In the second half of the concert, a Shearing quintet played a bebop tune based on ``What Is This Thing Called Love″ and one based on ``Back Home Again in Indiana.″

``If you recognize it, we’re doing something wrong,″ Shearing jauntily declared.

The quintet backed Wilson as they thrillingly reprised some of ``The Swingin’s Mutual,″ a recording Shearing and Wilson made together in 1961 that included ``The Things We Did Last Summer,″ ``All Night Long,″ ``The Nearness of You″ and ``Green Dolphin Street.″

Puente played timbales with the quintet on ``Two for Tea.″ The John Pizzarelli Trio performed tunes from albums Shearing cut with Nat Cole and Peggy Lee. Young jazz violinist Regina Carter played ``We’ll Be Together Again″ and a fast ``Lady Be Good.″ Drummer Grady Tate sang ``Lush Life,″ as he did on tour once with Shearing, filling in when Joe Williams got sick.

Wilson and Taylor read greetings from Cleo Laine, Johnny Dankworth, Diane Kral, Marian McPartland, Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn.

Peter Schickele, unbilled, ran down the aisle, heaved himself onto the stage and played a one-minute PDQ Bach tape that ended with a medieval chant that included the words ``George Shearing.″

The evening was long, upbeat, musically rich and emotionally warm.

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