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Don Shirley
Audio Fidelity  AFSD5897  /  CLP1897  [1959]

Side 1
1. One More for the Road (Arlen)
2. Satin Doll (Ellington)
3. Somebody Loves Me (Gershwin)
4. Nearness of You (Carmichael)
5. Easy Living (Robin)
6. The Way You Look Tonight (Kern)
Side 2
7. Blues for Basses (Fricker, Shirley, Frey)
8. Happy Talk (Rogers, Hammerstein)
9. The Nearly Was Mine (Rodgers)
10. Dites Moi (Rogers)
11. I Remember April (Raye, dePaul, Johnston)
12. Black is the Color (Shirley, Frey)

Don Shirley's piano artistry is not easily described. Suffice it to say that it has been tried, tested and refined to the point of exquisiteness. It has been subjected to all the trials and tribulations experienced by every jazz musician who has managed to survive the rigors of the profession. It has been nurtured by love and devotion, fashioned by extraordinarily fine musicianship and mellowed by the kind of sophistication that has enabled Shirley to develop one of the few really original piano styles in contemporary keyboard jazz. But the chief secret of Shirley's success is that underneath a fertile imagination are a discipline one would expect to find only in a keyboard classical artist and a highly intellectual approach to the piano.
Individual talents have accounted for most of the major developments in the art of jazz. The jazz hall of fame numbers many drummers, trumpeters, trombonists, clarinetists, saxophonists and bass players who have achieved recognition and fortune both as top soloists and bandsmen. And the same can be said for all the pianists, who outnumber greatly the orchestral wind, percussion and string players.

Thought is a necessary ingredient in any kind of music where the creative element is involved. This is especially true in the case of jazz, where a creative approach can make a tremendous difference in the way a theme or chorus is developed. Any technically competent musician can take a tune, embellish it with a few technical frills and splashes of rhythmic ornamentation and sound impressive. But the truly unusual musician is he who renews a tune in its very essence by remolding both the sound and the rhythm. This comes under the heading of improvisation. And when the jazzman improvises freely, the creative aspect of his talent supersedes everything else, including technical and artistic resources, and even the original inspiration of the composer. Behind the performer's act of creating is thought; and the more thought there is, the better the artist.

One hears much speculation these days about jazz being in the throes of evolutionary change and about composers and performers struggling to achieve new forms and new ideas. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of composers and performers of popular music are content to work with conventional forms and ideas, leaving to a tiny minority of brave souls the task of experimenting. Today most performers take tunes like "Blue Skies" and "Somebody Loves Me" and play them in conventional tempo, with routine harmonic and melodic treatment. The outstanding performer will think about his subject matter and make a conscious effort to bring continuity of thought to his interpretation. Perhaps one reason why jazz is allegedly still in its infancy (compared with classical music) is because so many jazz authorities subscribe to the theory that jazz requires less continuity of thought than classical music. Nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly a popular piece whose melodic line, harmony and choruses are given some thought can sound as impressive as an imposing classical work. By the same token, a popular composition stands a much better chance of being musically satisfying.

Jazz involves one factor that is almost totally absent from classical music, and that is collective creation. No performer of classical music would dream of attempting to improve or elaborate on a work by Johann Sebastian Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Schubert. However, the jazz musician, if he hopes to succeed in his own right, must exploit the process of collective creation. This process involves borrowing or imitating the ideas of others directly, adding to these ideas one's own talents with respect to technical skill, interpretation and improvisation.

In the last analysis the really creative jazzman is he who has an original style. And such a style stems not necessarily from projecting something new, but rather from taking something old, approaching it in a different manner and producing an end product of substance and interest. At least for a while, every performer is bound to be an imitator. The truly gifted performer is the one who succeeds in disengaging his personal conceptions from the models he has imitated and the influences he has undergone and develops an individual style that can stand on its own merits. Before the jazzman can succeed in this regard, he must master his instrument, and this only begins with technical mastery. The performer who is good enough to rise above others must have a knowledge of as many models as he can absorb-classical as well as popular.

Every kind of artist, including the musician, the painter and the graphic artist, has so-called periods. But the general style of most artists is generally discernible at almost any stage of their development. The same applies to most jazz musicians, who invariably sing or play the same way no matter how long they've been appearing before the public. The piano wizardry of Don Shirley represents something of a phenomenon. Shirley approaches every piece with a great deal of thought. Each work is a separate entity, something which calls for independent analysis and totally individual treatment. Shirley takes everything into account-the words, the basic mood of the piece, the emotional intensity of verse and musical thought, and the kind of tempo and pacing the listener might want to hear on the basis of the foregoing elements. Shirley can probably best be described as a keyboard impressionist. He creates not only images of tone, but images of mood which none of his contemporaries have yet succeeded in matching.

The selections in this recording, all perennial favorites, take on new and fascinating interest through the inspiration of Shirley's playing. "Blue Skies," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Somebody Loves Me" are invested with a tone poem quality that immeasurably enhances their appeal. The charming "Happy Talk," "Dites Moi" and "This Nearly Was Mine," from the Broadway musical hit revue "South Pacific," are heard in delightfully different interpretations, each more ingenious and charming than the other. "Black is the Color" and "Satin Doll" have a Chopinesque quality that reflects Shirley's extraordinary gift for effective tone painting and orchestrating at the keyboard. The tone quality of the piano played by Shirley has most unusual purity of tone as a result of guaranteed total frequency range recording techniques.
DON SHIRLEY will certainly go down in jazz history as one of the great keyboard talents of this age. A "graduate" of the supper club-hote1-theater-dance hall circuit, Shirley drew wide critical acclaim when he appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show and received rave reviews in all the musical journals. This led to his being praised in editorials in a number of publications, which, in turn, brought further recognition. Shirley attracted still further attention when he played a piano concerto written for him by Duke Ellington accompanied by the Symphony of the Air at Carnegie Hall, in New York City. Today he is very much in demand "as soloist for personal appearances in clubs all over the country, on radio and television. Most listeners, when they hear Shirley play, hold the opinion that he plays jazz the way they've never heard it played before. Those who know his playing best talk of his unique "quiet sound," which is as individual and personal as the man himself.

Total Frequency Range Stereophonic Recording

This High Fidelity Stereophonic Recording was produced featuring the Frey Stereophonic Curtain of Sound* technique.
When heard on a balanced playback system, the elements or musicians on the recording will be reproduced in the exact locations, directionally, as at the original performance. This original, positive technique to produce a pure, true stereophonic effect so that the instruments or elements of the recording are perfectly relocated as to direction of sound is an Audio Fidelity development and is true stereophonic reproduction.
This recording was made on an Ampex 350-2 with special electronic circuitry, using Altec, Elec,rovoice, RCA, and Telefunken microphones. The masters were cut with an automatic Scully Record Lathe mounting a Westrex 45-45 cutter with special feedback electronic circuitry driven by custom 200 watt amplifiers.
Precision mastering was done so as to achieve maximum stylus velocity consistent with minimum distortion, resulting in the ultimate in channel separation and realizing the greatest possible signal-to-noise ratio.
While the total frequency range of 16 cps to 25,000 cps on this record may not be within the range of ordinary human hearing, nevertheless inspection of the grooves with a microscope will show the etchings of the upper dynamic frequencies. It is the opinion of the manufacturer that if these frequencies were omitted from this record a certain warmth of tone that is felt and sensed rather than heard would be lost. For this reason and to achieve the ultimate in our "Studies in HIGH FIDELITY STEREOPHONIC sound" we have gone to these extreme electronic lengths.
Although any 33 1/3 RPM stereophonic record playback equipment may be used in playing this recording, it is recommended that playback equipment of extreme wide range and fidelity be used so that the recording may be enjoyed to its utmost.

Low Frequency Limit . . . . . . .16 CPS
High Frequency Limit . . .25,000 CPS
Crossover . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 CPS
Rolloff . . . . . . . . .13.75 DB at 10 KC