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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. While Count Basie and Duke Ellington were satisfied to lead just one orchestra during the swing era, and Benny Goodman (due to illness) had two, Shaw led five, all of them distinctive and memorable.

After growing up in New Haven, CT, and playing clarinet and alto locally, Shaw spent part of 1925 with Johnny Cavallaro's dance band and then played off and on with Austin Wylie's band in Cleveland from 1927-1929 before joining Irving Aaronson's Commanders. After moving to New York, Shaw became a close associate of Willie "The Lion" Smith at jam sessions, and by 1931 was a busy studio musician. He retired from music for the first time in 1934 in hopes of writing a book, but when his money started running out, Shaw returned to New York. A major turning point occurred when he performed at an all-star big band concert at the Imperial Theatre in May 1936, surprising the audience by performing with a string quartet and a rhythm section. He used a similar concept in putting together his first orchestra, adding a Dixieland-type front line and a vocalist while retaining the strings. Despite some fine recordings, that particular band disbanded in early 1937 and then Shaw put together a more conventional big band.

The surprise success of his 1938 recording of "Begin the Beguine" made the clarinetist into a superstar and his orchestra (who featured the tenor of Georgie Auld, vocals by Helen Forrest and Tony Pastor, and, by 1939, Buddy Rich's drumming) into one of the most popular in the world. Billie Holiday was with the band for a few months, although only one recording ("Any Old Time") resulted. Shaw found the pressure of the band business difficult to deal with and in November 1939 suddenly left the bandstand and moved to Mexico for two months. When Shaw returned, his first session, utilizing a large string section, resulted in another major hit, "Frenesi"; it seemed that he could not escape success. Shaw's third regular orchestra, who had a string section and such star soloists as trumpeter Billy Butterfield and pianist Johnny Guarnieri, was one of his finest, waxing perhaps the greatest version of "Stardust" along with the memorable "Concerto for Clarinet." The Gramercy Five, a small group formed out of the band (using Guarnieri on harpsichord), also scored with the million-selling "Summit Ridge Drive."

Despite all this, Shaw broke up the orchestra in 1941, only to re-form an even larger one later in the year. The latter group featured Hot Lips Page along with Auld and Guarnieri. After Pearl Harbor, Shaw enlisted and led a Navy band (unfortunately unrecorded) before getting a medical discharge in February 1944. Later in the year, his new orchestra featured Roy Eldridge, Dodo Marmarosa, and Barney Kessel, and found Shaw's own style becoming quite modern, almost boppish. But, with the end of the swing era, Shaw again broke up his band in early 1946 and was semi-retired for several years, playing classical music as much as jazz.

His last attempt at a big band was a short-lived one, a boppish unit who lasted for a few months in 1949 and included Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, and Don Fagerquist; their modern music was a commercial flop. After a few years of limited musical activity, Shaw returned one last time, recording extensively with a version of the Gramercy Five that featured Tal Farlow or Joe Puma on guitar along with Hank Jones. Then, in 1955, Artie Shaw permanently gave up the clarinet to pursue his dreams of being a writer. Although he served as the frontman (with Dick Johnson playing the clarinet solos) for a reorganized Artie Shaw Orchestra in 1983, Shaw never played again. He received plenty of publicity for his eight marriages (including to actresses Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and Evelyn Keyes) and for his odd autobiography, The Trouble With Cinderella (which barely touches on the music business or his wives), but the outspoken Artie Shaw deserves to be best remembered as one of the truly great clarinetists. His RCA recordings, which were reissued in complete fashion in a perfectly done Bluebird LP series, have only been made available in piecemeal fashion on CD. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

jbcallig
I have always loved the big band music, the styles of Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers, etc. and all those magnificent singers! Born in 1954 to parents from '06 and '18, I learned to love all kinds of music- but even though I love my '60s-'70s, THIS IS my favorite music!!!!

It seriously is beautiful, danceable, falling in love to, it is just the very best!
What ever happened to music? J therrien
Amazing
What a sound
Ot
Fascinating man & musician!
gg
This kind of music should be heard more

This is when USA was at its prime.
Great music. I remember when I was fortunatre enough to see and hear him and Doris Day when I was in 'boot' camp at Bainbridge, Md. i had just turned seventeen, the exact same age as Miss Day. Will never forget that night. I'm now 86 years old. Cory Hartbarger
jamesmoses46
da good stuff!!!
Artie represents an era in American history that many of us yearn for, don't get me wrong they had their problems and music wasn't one of them. It was a great time for the US, despite what many will have you believe.
I got this artist name from a TV show called Seinfield, thanks Elaine Benes !
Love this old style of music
kflowry7
A great musician, but a troubled person, as many geniuses are. In his later years, he lived in Newbury Park, CA, a suburb of Thousand Oaks. He would drive around town in his Ford Thunderbird.
As a clarinetist his music is like heaven to me
My mother was a singer in Charleston, SC. She sang with The Citadel orchestra/ba n d , the Militay College of South Carolina. Evidentally Artie Shaw was in Chaleston and she had a date with him. Said that he was a lovely person.
kvr123 Best music ever. I am 92 and miss it. Thanks
I'm positive he had a ninth wife, I think this bio is wrong.
harry james
I love this music!!! Smooth, relaxing, any time of the day. Makes me want to kickback with a glass of wine, close my eyes and imagine sitting front and center, tapping my feet and snapping my fingers! Whoa! I started listening to jazz and big band aroung the age of 12.
Helen D. At 14 I fell in love with his music and with him. I could have made him happy. We could have had him around longer.
Great sounds!!
Hey CMG, I see that you and I were raised in similar homes. My daddy was a tap dancer with Fletcher Henderson and my daddy and mommy knew everybody. So yes, I have a deep appreciation for Jazz and the Blues, too.
The Artie Shaw that ypu played for Dancing in the Dark is not the original recording. Take The A Train was recorded by on of the Ellington Units.
someone made a comment about young people taking advantage of this type of music. They don't understand this kind of music. I thank my dad for having the love of jazz in me. since i was a youngling of baby stages, i've been listening to jazz, cause every saturday and sunday Dad would play his records, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Tommy dorsey etc...I could go on and on, Louie Prima and there's an accapella group called the Swingle Singers, which was formed in the ear
i agree with signoril
marti153
The lyrics you give are for Stardust, not for Frenesi
Artie mastered t5he licorice stick like no other!
This is music!
morincolleen 5
I hope the young people take advantage of this kind of music
dick5806
Nothing to say,,,,it would interrupt the memories.
j.hahn16
Bye the way im J Hahns Dad!! Dan. God Bless The USA!!!!!!!
j.hahn16
I may be not as old as the music, but i will aloways rember the ones in that time thah gave all for this countrey and oure lives that we may live in freedom!!!!! ! ! ! H H B 42nd gp fa Pfc D Hahn.
Such a master musician. Love his tone.
It is said during WWII 'all Japanese, loved two Americans'. Babe Ruth and Artie Shaw!!!! Here's one American 70 years later that still loves Artie Shaw!!! As for Ruth I'm not a Yankee fan, I'll take Hank Greenberg.
buynig his cd now
Goodman tops in articulation . Shaw best in tone and creativeness .
donnadobbins 8
Nice ... so smooth!
Pure silk.
rdarovic
The first notes take me to another place. Wonderful.
josbarbara
One of the Best....corr e c t i o n . "The Best Clarinetists ever"
Makes you feel like you were part of a special time and place
Who could ruin "Stardust" - not Artie, that's for sure. Great song - great clarinet. I do, however, disagree with his comment about bass solos - love 'em, the bassist being the point guard of any band.
papoo31
a man who was married to all those beautiful and glamorous women and was still not fulflled is my kind of guy!!!!
I saw the new Shaw band on tour in early June. It was a beautifully rehearsed very tight organization . Tempos were all considerably faster than Artie every played them and there was a bass solo. Shaw once said, "There's no excuse for a bass solo."
I love his tunes make me feel like dance
Very nice. Smoooooth.
Love, Love, Love Artie Shaw. I grew up with his music & wish I could have seen him perform in person. To me his musical talent will never go out of style. The kids today need to know what a great artist he was.
Shaw's clarinet embraces the lyrical in all of us! Shaw's music is intelligent fun and speaks to our emotional side as well. We can laugh and hug the tears inside simultaneous l y . What a gift!
amazing. the bio, btw, is a great add on here. I have enjoyed getting to know the artists behind the music I love
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