1. I Didn't Know What Time It Was
2. A Time for Love
4. The Things We Did Last Summer
6. The Skye Boat Song
8. The Girl Next Door
9. Can't We Be Friends?
10. I Cover the Waterfront
11. Out Of Nowhere
12. That Old Devil Called Love
14. Beautiful Love
George Shearing - Piano
Don Thompson - Bass (tracks 1-4, 6-8, 11-13)
In 1983, George Shearing and Don Thompson were performing at a New York club for six weeks. George had a grand piano in his apartment and Don suggested that they should make some recordings "just for fun". George agreed, and they recorded onto reel-to-reel tape. Nearly 30 years later, after Shearing died in 2011, Don found the tapes in a drawer and decided they deserved to be heard. Hence this CD, which captures the duo in a very intimate setting. The recording quality is surprisingly good, and you can sense that both musicians were relaxed.
The recordings give us a chance to hear Shearing "close-up", as it were, and to understand how his individual playing not only included the "locked hands" style but often involved strumming with the left hand while the right hand picked out a tune in single notes. This somehow gave his playing a buoyancy which you can also hear on that album he made with Nat "King" Cole which included Let There Be Love.
The repertoire here consists mainly of jazz standards, although some of them are rarely-heard, such as Johnny Mandel's A Time for Love and Lee Konitz's SubconsciousLee. The Skye Boat Song may be an unexpected item to find in a jazz album but George and Don give it an attractive lilt. The Girl Next Door is imbued with the humanity which was part of Shearing's character.
George is well supported by Don Thompson's well-recorded bass. Don does a few neatly melodic solos. He also contributes one tune - Ghoti. I wonder if it is named after the observation attributed to Bernard Shaw that the word "fish" can be pronounced as GHOTI (GH as in tough, O as in women, and TI as in nation). This track includes a particularly articulate solo by Thompson.
Thompson only appears on ten of the fourteen tracks - the remainder
being piano solos, which Don says are "what George was all about".
Laura appears with new voicings, plus echoes of Debussy.
Can't We Be Friends? shows how George could suggest a whole
orchestra in his playing, which was nevertheless economical. He never
went over the top but retained a humane gentility. I Cover the
Waterfront (which Thompson says Shearing used to introduce as
"a beautiful piece written by Marlon Brando"!) starts with
George brilliantly interweaving another quotation from the French
classics with the familiar tune. Best of all is Beautiful Love,
which Don Thompson calls "one of the most amazingly beautiful
things I've ever heard".
Let's hope that Don Thompson can find some more Shearing tapes hidden away somewhere.