Smorgasbord Music Column – William Price King Meets Music Legends – #Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The Collaborations

It is nine years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. We continue in 2023 with series sharing the lives and music of some of the great names in music over the last century

The third post in the series exploring the life and music of one of the most important British Jazz musicians of the 20th century.

#Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The Collaborations

We now move into the mid-50s and 60s and the decision to move to America permanently has offered George Shearing to work with the best in music.

George Shearing and his Jazz Combos became more and more successful and popular through the 50s and 60s and he would release 48 albums, some in collaboration with other jazz artists of the day such as Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson and Mel Torme.

Most of George’s albums in the early 50s were with the MGM label but as his popularity grew other record companies wanted to sign him. From 1955 until 1969 he formed a very lucrative association with the Capitol label releasing several runaway albums including Beauty and the Beat with Peggy Lee in 1959.

The Rodgers and Hart – Nobody’s Heart featuring Peggy Lee – vocals; George Shearing – piano; Toots Thielemans – guitar; Ray Alexander – vibraphone; Warren Chiasson,
Jimmy Bond – double bass; Roy Hayens – drums; Armando Peraza – conga.

George had invented a unique quintet sound with the combination of piano, electric guitar, bass, drums and the introduction of a vibraphone. This enabled him to develop further a style called ‘locked hands’ which he had picked up when playing with and listening to other bands in the 40s such as Lionel Hampton and the King Cole Trio.

The written description does not really explain the style of ‘locked hands’ very well if you are non-musical. The style involves stating the melody on the piano with closely knit, harmonised block chords with the vibraphone and guitar tripling the melody in unison… See what I mean. But you might get a better idea by watching this short (under two minutes) tutorial actually on the piano.

Here is George and another wonderful female jazz artist Nancy Wilson — vocals The George Shearing Quintet: George Shearing — piano Dick Garcia — guitar Warren Chiasson — vibraphone Ralph Pena — double bass Armando Peraza — percussion Vernel Fournier — drums recorded in 1961 which was a very busy year for the quintet.

Over the 60s he also began showcasing smaller lineups trios, duos and of course his own solo work. Particularly with a duo, George was able to perform more freely within the styles that he favoured most, moving effortlessly between classical to bebop in the same number. He certainly was sought after to accompany other greats of the music world and here is another wonderful collaboration with Nat King Cole.

Here is Let There Be Love written in 1940 with music by Lionel Rand and lyrics by Ian Grant, recorded by Nat King Cole and the George Shearing Quintet on their 1961 album for Capitol – Nat King Cole Sings and George Shearing Plays.

George’s career was firmly established by the end of the 60s and audiences around the world delighted in the variety of his styles both in his larger combos and his solo work. The early influences that set him on the path to musical success still featured in his own playing including both ends of the spectrum of boogie-woogie and classical. He was admired by other pianists of the day for his light and refined touch and his ability to move seamlessly between styles and he added the odd surprise when he would pick up the accordion or sing on occasion.

It is fitting to end this episode on collaborations in the 60s with another great performer Mel Torme and the song How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?

Mel Torme and George Shearing – composer Tony Scibetta and lyricist Johnny Mercer’s masterpiece is covered in masterful style by Shearing & Tormé. This comes from a 1983 Concord recording, their second together, entitled “Top Drawer.”

Buy the music of George Shearing . Amazon

Additional material.
Sir George Shearing Bio

Next week we will be looking at the 1970s and two other styles that George brought into his performances very successfully which were Latin and a focus on his first style which was Classical.

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

Blog– IMPROVISATION William Price King on Tumblr – Buy William’s music: William Price King iTunes – FacebookWilliam Price King – Twitter@wpkofficial
Regular Venue – Cave Wilson


As always William would love to receive your feedback… thanks Sally.