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Shearer is most famous for his work as lead trombonist and music director for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, since taking over the lead chair from Jim Trimble in the late 1960s until Kenton's death in 1979. He led the band during Kenton's illnesses, and produced several of the band's last recordings. From 1979 to 1982 Shearer was the director of Wayne State University's (Detroit) Jazz Bands.
Shearer's lead trombone style is characterized in up-tempo tunes by aggressive, wide slide vibrato at the end of held notes, often climaxed with a "tear-off", a technique frequently utilized by lead trumpet players. This technique rarely carries over into the Kenton "ensemble ballads", however.
In soft ensemble passages (such as the famous Dee Barton arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day"), Shearer plays extremely softly, achieving a true orchestral pianissimo; this technique allows the later ensemble climax to seem even more powerful. Shearer also championed what is referred to as the "breath attack", whereby repeated notes (usually in a ballad) are not tongued, but are given an extra "push" of air.
‘Dick Shearer was the most important person on the band. I think that Stan felt about him like a son. … the thing is, the way Dick played trombone, that was the Kenton sound. Dick’s trombone was derivative of all the great Kenton lead players, going all the way back to Kai Winding. But sometimes the person who’s the end of a legacy, becomes the culmination of the legacy, so I think Dick was the greatest lead trombone player of them all.’”
- Mike Vax, lead trumpet player with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, as quoted in Michael Sparke, Stan Kenton: This is an Orchestra! [Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2010, p. 222]. http://jazzprofiles.blogspot.nl/2010/11/stan-kenton-later-years.html
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With Stan Kenton
- The World We Know (Capitol, 1967)
- The Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton (Capitol, 1967)
- Finian's Rainbow (Capitol, 1968)
- Live in Britain (Stan Kenton album) ((GNP Crescendo Records 1973)
- Kenton '76 (Stan Kenton album) (GNP Crescendo Records 1976)
- Live at Redlands University (GNP Crescendo Records 1970)
- Live at Brigham Young University (GNP Crescendo Records 1989)
- Live at Butler University (GNP Crescendo Records 1972)
- The British Tour (1973)
- Stan Kenton Today: Recorded Live In London (1972)
- Live At The London Hilton 1973, Vol.1&2
- 7.5 on the Richter Scale (1973)
- Kenton - Road Band '67 (Tantara Productions)(1967)
- Stan Kenton Today (Decca) (1972)
- Live In Europe (1977)
- Stan Kenton plays Chicago (Creative World)(1992)
- Tunes & Topics Part 1&2 (2003)
- Sparke, Michael (2010). Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra!, p. 229. University of North Texas Press.
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