Correspondence: Shearing And You Know Who

Veteran Bay Area pianist and trumpeter Dick Vartanian writes:

My brother-in-law was entertainment chairman of the Lion’s club in the early 1970s. They put on a benefit for the blind every year. He asked me if I could get some people to appear.

George Shearing was in San Francisco, so I asked him. His reply, as expected, was a direct yes. He played a few numbers with his trio and then announced to the audience that he had taken the liberty to bring a friend. At that point they played an intro and from the wings came, “Did you say you have a lot to learn?” followed by you know who.
shearing, williams
The audience reaction was wonderful.

No doubt, especially if You Know Who sang as he did in the album they made together for Shearing’s Sheba label in 1971, and if Shearing dug into his store of harmonic knowledge as he does in this medley. It was assembled from the recording by YouTube contributor David Speed.

Shearing, piano; Andy Simpkins, bass; Stix Hooper, drums

S & W Arm in Arm 2

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Terence Smith says

    “I’m left with the blues in my heart!”

    These guys are so soulful and “synergistic”. Musical combinations to treasure forever. I miss George Shearing and return to the well of his recordings constantly.

    George talks about Joe Williams beginning on page 145 of his beautiful autobiography, “Lullaby of Birdland.” Along with some great anecdotes, he specifically remembers the Sheba record date with Joe Williams in 1971:

    ” I loved the purity of his voice and his feeling for the blues.”

    Well, that goes for George AND Joe, as we can hear!

    George Shearing was the man whose blues for his dog, Lee, included a lyric which in part was, “You ain’t nothing but a guide dog!” For many years,George enthusiastically gave fundraiser concerts for Lee’s friends, San Rafael’s Guide Dogs for the Blind.

    I keep thinking of Shearing’s stock answer to the question, “Have you been blind all your life?”

    George would smile as he answered, “Not yet.”

  2. Lee Brenkman says

    George Shearing played the first time at The Great American Music Hall in 1972 or 1973.

    His agent insisted on a six day run, opening on a Tuesday night rather than the four day booking, Thursday through Sunday, that the club’s management would have preferred.

    On that Tuesday night at show time there were fewer than two dozen people in the audience. Five or them were Cal Tjader, Al McKibbon, John Rae, Armando Perazza and Eddie Duran, former members of the Shearing Quintet.

    Once seated at the piano, Mr, Shearing said, “I’d like to thank BOTH of you for coming”. He then smiled and said, “What the hell, let’s all pile into a couple of cabs and head over to Enrico’s.”

    Once the laughter died down, he then proceeded to play 90 minutes of truly exquisite music.

    Happily the crowds at the weekend shows were much larger.

  3. says

    George Shearing … RE: Mother’s Day… He’s my “bebop-mother”, ’cause Sir George made the “new” jazz digestible for me when I was seventeen, but without the clownery that Diz did.

    Shearing later pulled some strings too many for my taste; and so, I always direct the jazz fans to his & Billy May’s

    Burnished Brass album without strings from 1958:

    Cheek To Cheek

    Thanks for the LP tip. I’ve ordered it for a bargain at eeBuy… if ya know whadd-I-mean 😉

  4. Terence Smith says

    Most Rifftidesers are doubtless aware that George Shearing is the consummate accompanist for singers. The numerous collaborations with Nat Cole ( imagine Nat Cole hiring a piano player!), Mel Torme. Ernestine Anderson, Peggy Lee, and the incredible ,inexplicably underrated Teddi King ( was she a George Shearing “discovery”?) all demonstrate one thing: Singers thrived in the atmosphere of Shearing’s consummate touch, incredible ears, and abundant enjoyment of aiding and abetting a great singer’s interpretation. As I hear George with Joe Williams, I have to recommend an album that is just as great as any of the above: the Nancy Wilson/George Shearing Quintet collaboration from the early 60s called “The Swinging’s Mutual!”

    And Capitol has rereleased a CD with ten all-instrumental bonus quintet tracks, most previously unreleased. I highly recommend. Some of the quintet numbers are so swinging that if your socks are off, it might knock them back on! And Nancy Wilson’s “Let’s Live Again” is one of the most beautiful deliveries I have ever been privileged to receive!

    • Red Sullivan says

      The second Shearing/Nancy Wilson album, Hello Young Lovers, also on Capitol, but lesser known, is even superior. Orchestrations – well, arrangements anyway, are Shearing’s own (I think orchestrated by Ralph carmichael – but it is crucial that Shearing, truly, is this album’s arranger and conceptualist, and credited as such: as he was on the Nat Cole record, please do note!) and are sublime; Ms. Wilson’s performances at a peak of wonderfulness.

      This gem has long been a total, cherished treasure to me. It’s the album from whence we got “Back In Your Own Back Yard,” “Nina Never Knew” (- “Girls were made for kissing – but Nina never knew…”) and a lot more. A cursory glance may lead you to think this isn’t Shearing & Nancy, specifically – but, by god, it is – maybe even more so than the better known quintet collaboration, and aforementioned The Swingins’ Mutual, because his stamp is ALL over this magical record. It’s also better.

      It is puzzling to think this record seems overlooked – but, then, she was producing so, so many fabulous records at this time (with Jimmy Jones, with Gerald Wilson) – this one, though, must be re-evaluated upward: superior to The Swingin’s Mutual and the near equal of Lush Life – her best record ? – (w/Oliver Nelson, for the most part – and GREAT work by the albums other contributing arrangers too: Billy May & Sid Feller) – and the record with Cannonball, of course, a monument for the ages. Not to mention that the albums with Billy May, in particular, are uniformally FANTASTIC. (Go for Nancy, Naturally without hesitation! I guess the last of her truly great records from this contract). The album is called Nancy Wilson, Hello Young Lovers – and we should all know it (I’m sure many of you do, though, already).