Polemics & Exchanges

All That Jazz

I greatly enjoyed and appreciate Tony Outh­waite’s recent tribute to George Shearing (“No Apologies for Jazz,” Cultural Revolutions, April).  Well done.

In late 1954 or early 1955 I twice traveled from my assignment at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois, to the University at Champaign-Urbana to hear some live jazz.

The first time, it was Erroll Garner, who sat atop his usual telephone book and didn’t talk at all—just played.

The other time, it was George Shearing and his quartet (or quintet) with his guest Jean “Toots” Thielemans.  Shearing and company played beautifully, and George chatted a bit between numbers.  I recall him introducing his conga drummer, Armando Peraza, as “Armando . . . Schultz.”  At the end of the concert, he thanked the audience for coming and added, “drive safely.  It’s Friday night, and there may be a lot of children out, and they are lousy drivers.”

I was a longtime fan, and when I got my radio show in San Francisco, I interviewed Shearing and Mel Tormé, and later “Shearing & Tormé” several times.

When George first came on my show I was shocked by his appearance: He was frail, his clothes hung on him loosely, his face was pale, and his hair was shaggy...

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