Pianist, composer, and arranger Don Shirley was born in Pensacola, Florida, on January 29, 1927. He began playing piano at age two, and seven years later had developed his skills so rapidly, he was studying theory at the prestigious Leningrad Conservatory of Music. Shirley made his concert debut with the Boston Pops in 1945, while the following year, the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed one of his first major compositions. In the ensuing years between 1954 and 1968, Shirley performed as a soloist and as a member of several symphonies, including the Boston Pops, Detroit Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington. Shirley also composed several organ symphonies, a piano concerto, two string quartets, and numerous pieces for piano. His musical language also encompassed tastefully mastered combinations of standards, show tunes, ballads, spirituals, and jazz performed with his own trio. Incredibly, Shirley also found time between performing and recording to obtain a PhD of Music, Psychology, and Liturgical Arts. Throughout the '50s and '60s, he released numerous albums on the Cadence label. In 1999, Collectables began reissuing several of those albums as two-for-one sets. Shirley died of heart disease on April 6, 2013. ~ Al Campbell
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