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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke


Bluebird 09026 63808 2
Crotchet midprice £45
Disc One
  1. Nightmare
  2. Cream puff
  3. Streamline
  4. The Blues-A
  5. The Blues-B
  6. Shoot the Likker to me John Boy
  7. Free Wheeling
  8. Monsoon
  9. Begin the Beguine
  10. Any Old Time
  11. Yesterday’s
  12. It Had to Be You
  13. Star Dust
  14. Shine On, Harvest Moon
  15. Back Bay Shuffle
  16. Softly As in a Morning Sunrise
  17. Rosalie
  18. Traffic Jam
  19. Prosschai
  20. Carioca
  21. Rose Room
  22. I Surrender Dear
  23. Everything is Jumpin’

Disc 2

  1. At Sundown
  2. Sweet Sue
  3. Man from Mars
  4. Diga Diga Doo
  5. Frenesi
  6. Gloomy Sunday
  7. Temptation
  8. Stardust
  9. Blues Part 1
  10. Blues Part 2
  11. Prelude in C Major
  12. Summit Ridge Drive
  13. Dr Livingstone, I presume
  14. Concerto for Clarinet
  15. Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.
  16. Dancing In the Dark
  17. I Cover the Waterfront
  18. Nocturne
  19. Blues in the Night


Disk 3

  1. Is It Taboo
  2. There’ll Be Some Changes Made
  3. Take Your Shoes Off Baby
  4. Just Kiddin’Around
  5. To A Broadway Rose
  6. Suite No8
  7. Two In One Blues
  8. Lady Day
  9. 'S Wonderful
  10. Bedford Drive
  11. The Grabtown
  12. Grapple
  13. The Sad Sack
  14. Summertime
  15. Tabu
  16. Lucky Number
  17. The Man I Love
  18. The Hornet
  19. The Maid with the Flaccid Air
  20. The Glider

Disc 4

  1. Begin the Beguine
  2. My Heart Belongs to Daddy
  3. What Is This Thing Called Love?
  4. Get Out of Town
  5. Love for Sale
  6. Anniversary Song
  7. Smooth and Easy
  8. Star Dust
  9. Aesop’s Foibles
  10. I Get a Kick Out of You
  11. ‘S Wonderful
  12. So easy
  13. Krazy Kat
  14. Orinoco
  15. Fred’s Delight
  16. Similau
  17. Afro Cubana
  18. These Foolish Things
  19. I’ve Got a Crush on You
  20. Someone to Watch Over Me
  21. Autumn Leaves

Disc 5

  1. Don’t Take Your Love from Me
  2. The Chaser
  3. Star Dust
  4. Summit Ridge Drive
  5. I Can’t Get Started
  6. Too Marvellous for Words
  7. Yesterdays
  8. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
  9. S’Posin’
  10. My Funny Valentine
  11. Dancing on the Ceiling
  12. Scuttlebutt

This boxed set of 5 CD’s covers the whole of Artie Shaw’s band leading career from 1936 to 1954, during which he was always at the forefront of musical artistry. Although he gave up playing the clarinet to pursue a career as a writer in 1954, Shaw is still alive and was responsible for selecting which of his recordings would be included in this collection of his work. The booklet included with the discs gives a delightful commentary from Shaw, who is without doubt one of the finest clarinettists that the world has ever produced. His tone, technique, agility and ability to play in the high register have probably never been equalled. Some things he plays that sound easy, are absolute finger breakers when attempted by lesser mortals on the clarinet!

Before leading his own band Shaw had already established himself as a top class Lead Alto Saxophone player and Clarinet soloist in other people’s bands. He also had the ability to improvise on any theme and a huge stage presence. He was constantly seeking new approaches, which is probably why a lot of his bands were short lived. He had thought of a better way! The bands were filled with other great jazz soloists, Artie wanted to have the best men in his bands, but none outshone him. A certain amount of this was due to the fact that he played the lion’s share of the solos; but that said, his up to eight hours a day of practice on the clarinet, combined with great natural musical ability, was too much for his competitors.

In the booklet Shaw says that he only included the records he wanted to make and of those, only the ones he felt had achieved his musical objective.

My personal favourite is the 1949 band with Don Fagerquist on Trumpet, Sonny Russo on Trombone and two aspiring young tenor sax players called Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. The arrangers for these two sessions included Tadd Dameron, Johnny Mandel and Ray Conniff. Shaw’s playing fits in well with this more modern approach, it is almost as though he was waiting for this bebop inspired music to come along!

Disc Five is devoted to two versions of the Gramercy 5, recorded in 1954; Hank Jones is on piano and Tal Farlow on guitar. Once again Shaw fits in well with these younger musicians and produces some memorable music, this time all from head arrangements.

Bluebird has produced a most valuable musical document in this Artie Shaw self-portrait. It is a unique sketch of the popular music of the period, as well as being a most appropriate tribute to one of the very finest clarinet players the world has produced. Shaw’s influence as a bandleader should not be undervalued either, constantly seeking perfection and striving for new and different sounds, without ever resorting to the weird.

It is fascinating to think of what he might have gone on to, had he not turned to writing, but that would be another story!


Don Mather

see also highlights disc


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