Artie Shaw reached the pinnacle of stardom in 1939, becoming a celebrity and having his band rated at the top of the swing world, at least in popularity. But Shaw did not enjoy the experience much, was under constant pressure, and in late November he left the bandstand and fled to Mexico. His band (which struggled on briefly under Georgie Auld's leadership) broke up a few months later. Running out of money, on March 3, 1940, Shaw gathered together a large studio orchestra (with a full string orchestra) and recorded six songs, including one ("Frenesi") that became a giant hit. This CD concludes with part of a second date (from May 13) with a different studio band. It would be a few months before Artie Shaw formed his third orchestra. Despite the turmoil, there are fine performances to be heard on this intriguing disc, the seventh Shaw CD put out by Classics.
As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare."
Outstanding Collection of the hottest numbes in the Golden Age of Big Bands: Artie Shaw & His Orchestra, Art Tatum All Stars with Tommy Dorsey, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Stan Kenton & His Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra & others.
Artie Shaw - One of jazz's finest clarinetists, Artie Shaw never seemed fully satisfied with his musical life, constantly breaking up successful bands and running away from success.
The material on CD 1 dates from the latter half of Artie Shaw’s career as a bandleader, which ended with his retirement in 1954. Always presenting tasteful and often unusually deep interpretations of big-band jazz and dance music, and featuring his exquisite and frequently profound clarinet improvisations, Shaw’s career climaxed in his rise to superstar status as the most popular musician in North America at the height of the Swing Era in 1939.
Conversing with Artie Shaw – as Loren Schoenberg and I did in preparation for annotating these further treasures from his last recordings – is an exhilarating experience. This is because this master of the clarinet excels at making connections. Just as he always knew how to get from one note the next in such a way that the result was a cohesive statement – a story, as jazz musicians used to put it – he knows how to link one idea to another, to make allusions, to place things in context, within a frame of reference that ranges wide and far. Artie Shaw always told a story when he played, and he had that sound – immediately, unmistakably identifiable as his and his alone. It is a treat to hear him tell us some timeless stories we hadn’t heard before. Dan Morgenstern.
These marvellous performances are culled from Artie Shaw’s final recordings as an instrumentalist. It is crystal clear that he retired at the height of his powers. Throughout these pieces, his playing is a joy to the ear and the mind, and his unique sound on the clarinet has seldom if ever been better captured. Shaw was still in his prime as a leader as well: this last Gramercy Five was a collective of the first order with a sound and style of its own, attuned to the times but never falling into the trap of trendiness.