At first glance, a CD with twenty tracks might appear to represent a great value, even if Nancy Wilson sings on only eight of them (which is two more numbers than she gets on the celebrated recording she made with Cannonball Adderley). On each of her opportunities she sparkles, but no more so than on Hoagy's "The Nearness of You," a rather bland tune that I frankly had gotten tired of playing and listening to. Unlike some of her later studio recordings, there's nothing "mannered" about Nancy's singing on any of these tunes. She's playful, inventive, spirited--the life of the program.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the formulaic, mannered sound of Shearing's Quintet. Most of the instrumentals are just over two minutes long--piano, vibes, guitar play melody, George improvises for part of the second chorus, then piano, vibes, guitar once again overkill the melody.
Shearing is a supremely talented musician--he possesses an unmistakable, consistent, lambent tone; flawless technique; undeniable harmonic and melodic imagination. It's not hard to understand why his appearance at a jazz club in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" led to Dean Moriarity's exclaiming, "God is in house!" Dean had no doubt heard him under optimal circumstances.
So have I--in concert at Carnegie Hall, at Newport with the Adderley Brothers, in a live performance at Joliet prison, and in concert with Mel Torme. But I've also heard and seen him sleepwalk, which was par for the course for him on all of his Capitol dates (of which this is one). Come to think of it, he's putting out much the same sort of innocuous, predictable stuff 50 years later on Telarc records. I can understand what drives artists to carve out a place for themselves, but having once enjoyed commercial success what's the point of remaining a totem? High time to shake things up a bit, George. What have you got to lose?