World Sight Day 2016

October 13, 2016

Thursday, October 13 is the annual ‘World Sight Day 2016’, raising awareness of blindness and vision impairments across the globe. Stingray DJAZZ presents three visually impaired musicians who earned prominent places in jazz history.



The afternoon starts at 14:30 CEST with the British pianist George Shearing, whose life story seems to resemble a fairy tale. Shearing, the son of a coal worker for the British Royal Palace, was born blind, the youngest son in a household of eleven. At the age of three, Shearing started playing the piano. He was obviously very talented, but despite the many offers of scholarships, George ended up playing in pubs for five pounds salary a week. Everything changed when he decided to leave England for the USA in 1947. Accompanied by his own quintet, he recorded his song “September in the Rain” for the prestigious MGM Label in 1949. Selling 900,000 copies, Shearing became an overnight sensation and his name was established in America. George became a regular guest at the Birdland Jazz Club in New York, won Grammy Awards and was invited to perform at the White House by three different American presidents. In 2007, George became Sir George when he was knighted by Queen Elisabeth for his invaluable contributions to music. George Shearing responded: "I don't know why I'm getting this honour, I've just been doing what I love to do […] what a journey it has been from that pub to Buckingham Palace. Receiving such an honour as a Knighthood might also show young people what can be achieved in life if one learns his craft and follows his dreams."


At 15:20 CEST, it’s José Felicanio’s turn. The Puerto Rica-born singer and guitarist was raised in Harlem, New York. Blind from birth, he began playing the accordion at the age of five, soon switching to guitar and playing the Bronx theatres at the age of nine. José decided to quit school and he immerged himself in the world of jazz. He’s is mainly known by the general public for his rendition of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ and the immensely popular Christmas hit ‘Feliz Navidad’. Feliciano’s music can best be described as easy-listening with strong influences of flamenco music.


Stingray DJAZZ’s ‘World Sight Day’ ends with a performance by ‘The Genius’ himself: Ray Charles! As a child, Charles witnessed the drowning of his little brother in a laundry tub. Soon after this event he lost his sight, leaving him permanently blind by the age of seven. After the death of his parents and touring with a variety of country and rhythm-and-blues bands, Charles started recording for Atlantic Records. His style is characterized by the influence of gospel music, which he combined with rhythm-and-blues music. Charles is known for his piano playing and singing, but precious few people are aware of the fact that Charles was also a more than decent clarinet player and saxophonist!


Thursday, October 13 at 14:30 CEST: George Shearing – South Bank Show

George Shearing, blind since birth, was one of the world's greatest jazz pianists. Filmed on both sides of the Atlantic, this tribute to Shearing showcases the music which took the jazz world by storm. Specially-shot performances and archive clips feature music spanning the six decades of his remarkable career and classics such as ‘September in the Rain’, ‘Lullaby of Birdland’, ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Donna Lee’ and ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ are included, as well as many other recent compositions.


Thursday, October 13 at 15:20 CEST:  New Morning – José Feliciano Band

The ‘New Morning’ is a Parisian club that specializes in jazz and blues. It was 1981 when the club opened its doors for the first time. Since then, many jazz and blues giants have made their appearance on the stage, with Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and Kenny Clarke among them. Tonight’s concert features guitarist José Feliciano. Here he shares the stage with a large band: Greg Smith on keyboards, Bob Conti on percussion, Tyger McNeal on drums, Johnny Mennonna on bass, and Ty McHugh on keyboards. Feliciano, born in Puerto-Rico, rose to fame with hits such as ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘Feliz Navidad’, but he proves the crowd of the New Morning Club that he is capable of much more than only that!

Thursday, October 13 at 16:10 CEST: The Blues of Montreux

Founded by Claude Nobs in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has over the years become an unmissable event for music fans in Switzerland and around the world. Its stages have been graced by all of music’s greats, from Miles Davis to Ray Charles and from David Bowie to Prince. This compilation of the 1991 edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival presents great artists such as Ray Charles, Robert Cray, B.B. King, Charles Brown, Ruth Brown, John Hammond and Moody Blues.