Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Shearing Sound

© -Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Has there ever been anything more beautiful in Jazz than “The Shearing Sound?”

Achieving a unique sound on their instrument, one that is almost instantly recognizable is something that every Jazz artist strives for, but doing so on a percussive instrument such as the piano is an entirely different matter.

George Shearing was able to accomplish this by using a block chord technique that blended his percussive piano with the vibraphonist and guitarist that formed the "front-line" in his quintet, to create what has come to be known as “The Shearing Sound."

When hearing "The Shearing Sound," essentially the listener is experiencing a melody that is harmonized into four-parts in which Shearing's upper melody note is doubled on vibes and the lower note is doubled on guitar.

According to pianist Dick Katz in his insert notes to The Complete Capitol Live Recordings of George Shearing [Mosaic Records MD-5 157], "by using an octave-unison voicing that simulated the old Glenn Miller sound, the group achieved a blend that was truly unique for a quintet."

"Shearing had also perfected his 'locked hands' block chord technique by this time, and he utilized this chordal approach to fill out the guitar-vibraphone lines."

Click the YouTube above to hear The Shearing Sound” on Ray Gilbert and Osvaldo Farres' beautiful ballad Without You which is from the 1946 Walt Disney animated feature – Make Mine Music.