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.
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.
Verve 60th Anniversary Rare Albums SHM-CD Reissue Series. Reissue with SHM-CD format. A surprisingly wonderful album from Artie Shaw – one that takes his older groove and nicely strips it down for the 50s, and which features some especially great guitar work from Tal Farlow! Other players in the group include Hank Jones on piano, Joe Roland on vibes, Tommy Potter on bass, and Irv Kluger on drums – coming together in a loosely swinging mode that has lots of interplay on the longer-than-usual tracks on the set. Titles include the originals "When The Quail Come Back To Town", "Lugubrious", "The Grabtown Grapple", and "Lyric".
This collection of Artie Shaw big band recordings comes from his brief association with the Musicraft label. Having assembled and broken up several earlier units, this edition, heard in recordings made between 1945 and 1946, is more of an arranger's band than one that features many soloists, other than the leader. During this period of Shaw's career, he was constantly changing the instrumentation of his band and making personnel substitutions. Fellow Musicraft artist Mel Tormé and his group the Mel-Tones are added on some tracks, though this was a studio relationship exclusively and they were not a part of Shaw's organization. The innovative blend of strings, voices and brass in the swinging arrangement of "What Is This Thing Called Love" is the highlight of the vocal selections, along with an updated instrumental version of the clarinetist's earlier hit, "Begin the Beguine." The only reservation about this compilation is that several tracks are abruptly faded or even truncated.
5 complete LPs presented on 2 companion volumes! Featuring Carl Perkins, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel and Don Fagerquist! Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw were among the most famous and beloved figures in swing music both as clarinet soloists and orchestra conductors. They were still very active musically in 1957, when Buddy De Franco decided to record a series of sessions paying homage to them. Thirty-five performances were recorded (including four medleys containing three songs each) in four extended sessions made on four consecutive days and with two different groups (guitarist Barney Kessel, however, is present on most of the tracks).