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Very sad indeed. Some years ago a friend with out-of-the-mainstream tastes turned me on to Don Shirley, and I was hooked. Some jazz people I know have stuck their noses up at him ('he ain't the real stuff!'), but that doesn't mean he wasn't a remarkable pianist.
I'm going to be listening to him this evening.
One of my favourite recordings, it just tugs at me:
Thanks for posting the Times obituary, PL. This was the first I'd heard of his passing.
Don Shirley was a genius. He traveled the border between classical music and jazz in high style; listening to his recordings always brings a smile to my face.
Probably the best introduction to his art is the album "Don Shirley in Concert", recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1968 (perhaps the same concert RealPlayer attended). It can be ordered through Amazon, though it seems to be out of stock for now:
The way he wove classical themes into his arrangements is fascinating. Trained as a classical pianist (at the Leningrad Conservatory, among other places), he never lost his taste for the classics despite having been discouraged from pursuing a concert career because of his race. On the "In Concert" album, he included an excerpt from Rachmaninoff's 2nd symphony in his version of Gershwin's "I Can't Get Started". And his arrangement of "I Cover the Waterfront" has extensive quotations from two of Ravel's Miroirs (Une Barque sur l'Ocean and La Vallee des Cloches).