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George Shearing dies at 91

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NEW YORK—Sir George Shearing, the ebullient jazz pianist who wrote the standard “Lullaby of Birdland" and had a string of hits both with and without his quintet, has died. He was 91.

Shearing, blind since birth, died early Monday morning in Manhattan of congestive heart failure, his longtime manager Dale Sheets said.

“He was a totally one-of-a-kind performer," said Sheets. “It was something wonderful to see, to watch him work."

Shearing had been a superstar of the jazz world since a couple of years after he arrived in the United States in 1947 from his native England, where he was already hugely popular. The George Shearing Quintet's first big hit came in 1949 with a version of songwriter Harry Warren's “September in the Rain."

He remained active well into his 80s, releasing a CD called “Lullabies of Birdland" as well as a memoir, “Lullaby of Birdland," in early 2004. In March of that year, though, he was hospitalized after suffering a fall at his home. It took him months to recover, and he largely retired from public appearances after that.

Sheets said that while Shearing ceased working, he never stop playing piano.

“He was getting better periodically and doing quite well up into about a month ago," said Sheets.

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