Video Pick of the Week: Amanda Cook Plays George Shearing’s Jazz Standard ‘Lullaby of Birdland’
I was in a jazzy mood today for some reason, so I went lookin’ for a cool jazz-classical crossover track to share with you, and I quickly landed on this one by the excellent English guitarist Amanda Cook. The piece is Lullaby of Birdland, written by pianist George Shearing in 1952 as a theme song of sorts for a radio program hosted by Morris Levy, owner of the legendary New York City jazz venue Birdland, which hosted nearly every major jazz performer of the 1950s and the first half of the ’60s. The song, now regarded as a standard, has been recorded by many jazz and pop artists (including singers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Mel Torme to Amy Winehouse; lyrics by George Weiss were added in 1954), and quite a few guitarists, including Lenny Breau, Barney Kessel, and Biréli Lagrène.
Over the course of her more than 25-year career, Amanda Cook has won numerous prizes, adjudicated guitar competitions, performed around the world, and been a highly regarded teacher herself. She is also a member of the wonderful Vida Guitar Quartet, whose latest album, Bachianas, features pieces by J.S. Bach (of course!), plus music inspired by Bach, including a pair of specially commissioned pieces. Cook will be appearing as a solo performer on October 17 at an event at the London Guitar Studio celebrating the release of Bridget Mermikides’ latest edition of guitar arrangements; and both alone and with Vida at the London Guitar Festival, which is taking over Kings Place for three days of amazing music October 25–27 (their performances are on the afternoon of the 27th). —Blair Jackson
Here’s a video or the blind pianist Shearing playing a swingin’ version of his composition in London in 1955: