Back To Birdland
Telarc CD-83524, 2001 (71:51)
As if he never left the club
Dan Macintosh, 6 October 2001
This live recording may not have been tracked at the original Birdland club, but it is still features the original writer of "Lullaby Of Birdland" and, most importantly of all, it's a tasteful slice of music from one of jazz music's truly classy guys.
You immediately feel the joy the George Shearing Quintet plays with on the lightly swinging "Drop Me Off In Harlem," as Shearing sprinkles out the notes from this Duke Ellington composition with a perfectly at ease, Duke-like touch.
Shearing's calmly commanding playing may take center stage here, but his quintet also earns its share of the limelight. Neil Swainson stutter steps his way beautifully through his solo on "Donna Lee," and Don Thompson's vibe work throughout is exemplary, but especially so on the swinging "Drop Me Off In Harlem."
It is obvious how much Shearing enjoys the exhilarating hurdling momentum of swing, but as "Just Imagine" justly proves, he is equally comfortable with ballads. His pregnant musical pauses between phrases lends it even extra lyrical weight. He follows this up with the wistful "High On A Windy Hill," which retains an almost classical quality. Jazz is, after all, America's classical music, and this is just one more example to support this case.
Shearing has lost no love for his signature song, as "Lullaby Of Birdland" sounds as new and exciting performed here as it must have also sounded way back in 1952 when he first wrote it - supposedly in just ten minutes!
He calls this recording "Back To Birdland," but his grand performance is a reminder of how he's never really left the enduringly joyous spirit of that famous jazz club.
performers George Shearing, piano; Don Thompson, vibraphone; Reg Schwager, guitar; Neil Swainson, bass; Dennis Mackrel, drums
songs Fly Me To The Moon · Drop Me Off In Harlem · Sunday, Monday or Always · Speak Low, Joy Spring · That Sunday That Summer · Donna Lee · Just Imagine · High On A Windy Hill · Subconscious Lee · Lullaby Of Birdland · Loot To Boot