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The music of Don Shirley

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Performer Notes
  • Includes liner notes by Mark Marymont.
  • Liner Note Author: Mark Marymont.
  • Recording information: 10/1954-??/1964.
  • Jamaican-born and classically trained pianist Don Shirley made a lot of very accessible records for the Cadence label between the years 1954 and 1964. In 1997, the budget-priced Collectables series came out with the first in a long series of Shirley reissue compilations and called it simply Golden Classics. With the exception of a solo piano rendering of "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe," this sampler demonstrates the almost chamber music feel of the Don Shirley Trio, which mainly consisted of bassist Kenneth Fricker, a percussionist named Ted Sommers, and one of two cellists, either Juri Taht or Donald Anderson. On "Amen," "Lonesome Road," and "Stand by Me," Shirley doubles on organ. "Water Boy" and "Freedom" were issued on 45 rpm in 1961. "Dancing on the Ceiling" and "My Funny Valentine" date back to Shirley's first date for Cadence, one of many duo sessions with bassist Richard Davis. Despite an incorrect citation printed on the back cover of this label's reissue of "Don Shirley Plays Show Tunes," these two selections were recorded at Webster Hall in New York City during October 1954 (not May 1955). For the most part this gentle and reflective music will stay in the background and soothe the nerves. It is remarkably unobtrusive and may be talked over, which is exactly what most people seem to want in the brave new world of cell phones and caffeine. ~ arwulf arwulf
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