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Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw is an NEA Jazz Master

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II, Shaw was matched by few other musicians in popularity and technical skill.

Born Arthur Arshawsky in New York City and raised in Connecticut, Shaw took up the saxophone at an early age and began playing professionally when he was only 14. He left home at 15 for a job in Kentucky. The position never materialized and he was forced to play with traveling orchestras in order to get home. At age 16 he switched to the clarinet and went to Cleveland, where he spent three years playing in local groups, including that of Austin Wylie.

In 1929 Shaw joined Irving Aaronson's Commanders. While traveling the country with the band he discovered the works of contemporary avant-garde classical composers whose influence would later surface in his own music. When the Commanders arrived for a gig in New York, Shaw decided to remain. There he freelanced with many of the top artists of the day, including Vincent Lopez, Red Nichols, and Teddy Wilson. He also briefly spent time with Fred Rich's orchestra and toured with Roger Wolfe Kahn.

In 1934 Shaw became disillusioned with the music industry and quit for the first of what would be many times. He bought a farm in Pennsylvania and tried his hand at being a writer. He soon returned to New York and took up studio work again. He was one of the most successful studio musicians in the city when in 1935 he was asked to lead a small group during intermissions at a swing concert held by the Imperial Theater. He put together an unusual outfit consisting of a string quartet, a rhythm section minus piano, and his clarinet.

Shaw's unique combination was wildly received by the audience. He was offered financial backing to form his own orchestra, and in 1936 he debut his first dance band, which featured a Dixieland approach and a string quartet. The new group made some impressive recordings but couldn't compete with the brassier swing orchestras of the day, so Shaw disbanded it the following year and formed a more conventional big band.

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Radio & Podcasts

The Swing Era Big Bands (1936 - 1941)

Read "The Swing Era Big Bands (1936 - 1941)" reviewed by Russell Perry


In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the very dance-oriented swinging music of the Big Bands was the most popular music around. Never had jazz been more central to mass culture. Just over the horizon were the draft of 1940 that eventually conscripted 10 million men, making it increasingly difficult to field top notch bands; war shortages of gasoline and shellac limiting both touring and recording; the economic infeasibility of touring with 16-member orchestras; the musicians strike and recording ban ...

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Multiple Reviews

100 Years of Artie Shaw

Read "100 Years of Artie Shaw" reviewed by George Kanzler


Artie ShawThe Last Recordings Vol. 1MusicMaster-Nimbus2009 Artie ShawThe Last Recordings Vol. 2MusicMaster-Nimbus2009 Artie ShawThe Last Recordings Vol. 3MusicMaster-Nimbus2009 Artie ShawThe Complete Spotlight Band 1945 BroadcastsHep Jazz2009 Artie ShawComplete Thesaurus Transcriptions 1949Hep Jazz2010

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Extended Analysis

Artie Shaw: Classic Bluebird and Victor Sessions

Read "Artie Shaw: Classic Bluebird and Victor Sessions" reviewed by Samuel Chell


Artie ShawClassic Bluebird and Victor SessionsMosaic Records2009Shortly after its critically acclaimed box set comprising clarinetist Benny Goodman's essential recordings-- The Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (2009), which was released to coincide with the centenary of the “King of Swing"--Mosaic Records has done it again. The Classic Artie Shaw Bluebird and Victor Sessions arrives in time for the 100th birthday (May 23, 2010) of the clarinetist who was the instrumental bobby-soxer ...

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From Far and Wide

Obituary: Artie Shaw

Read "Obituary: Artie Shaw" reviewed by AAJ Staff


Artie Shaw died December 30th at the age of 94. It seems almost befitting that Shaw, the musician that despised fame, would pass on after all the magazines and newspapers went to press with their year-end tributes to the entertainers who died in 2004. “The public and I have nothing to do with each other," Shaw said in a 2002 interview. “I have succeeded in spite of the public." Well, the public may not have always accepted Shaw's music, but ...

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Swing Set

Artie Shaw: "Begin the Beguine"

Read "Artie Shaw: "Begin the Beguine"" reviewed by David Rickert


Dueling Clarinetists

During the Swing Era Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw were the clarinetists that reigned supreme and serious fans divided themselves into factions that loved one or the other. Goodman was the peddler of popular tunes who got the crowd on their feet, while Shaw was the musician's musician who preferred to make artistic statement that people listened to.

While both left their mark on the time period, nobody felt the tension between art and entertainment like ...

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Profile

Artie Shaw: Clarinetist and Bandleader, 1910-2004

Read "Artie Shaw: Clarinetist and Bandleader, 1910-2004" reviewed by Mark Sabbatini


“His use of strings and arrangements blending commercialism with interesting musical values was almost unique of its kind. But Shaw was a contrary soul, critical of any pandering to audiences." - “The Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD," referring to Artie Shaw

For someone hoping to pitch swing-era big band music to today's counterculture, Artie Shaw might be the perfect choice.

The famous clarinetist died Dec. 29, 2003, at the age of 94 from ...

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Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II, Shaw was matched by few other musicians ...

1

Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II, Shaw was matched by few other musicians ...

1

Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II, Shaw was matched by few other musicians ...

1

Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II, Shaw was matched by few other musicians ...

1

Video / DVD

Artie Shaw: Love of My Life

Artie Shaw: Love of My Life

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Artie Shaw's first feature-length film was Second Chorus, in 1940. By then, the 30-year-old clarinetist was earning up to $60,000 a week ($1.1 million in today's dollars), becoming the best-paid and most celebrated music star of the swing era. That same year, he recorded his massive hit Frenesi with a pickup orchestra, married actress Lana Turner and appeared on the radio regularly behind George Burns and Gracie Allen (they each made $5,000 a week). Shaw formed a new band in ...

Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II... Read more.

Place our Musician of the ...

1

Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II... Read more.

Place our Musician of the ...

Birthday

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Jazz Musician of the Day: Artie Shaw

Source: Michael Ricci

All About Jazz is celebrating Artie Shaw's birthday today!

Artie Shaw, a brilliant jazz clarinetist, was one of the most enigmatic, daring and adventurous bandleaders of the swing-era. An intellectual, he hated public life and the music industry. Over the course of his short career he formed ten orchestras and disbanding most of them after only a few months. At the peak of his career in the years just before World War II... Read more.

Place our Musician of the ...

1

Recording

Artie Shaw: Pied Piper

Artie Shaw: Pied Piper

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

On a Sunday afternoon in July 1946, CBS's Columbia Workshop broadcast The Pied Piper of Hamelin, featuring a story adaptation and music by Artie Shaw. The national radio show broadcast from Columbia Square in Hollywood was aimed at young kids home from school. Weeks later, Shaw's label, Musicraft, brought together Shaw and the broadcast's ensemble to re-tell the story on three 78s, which were released as an album that fall as a holiday item. The Musicraft recording session was sandwiched ...

1

Recording

Johnny Mandel: Krazy Kat

Johnny Mandel: Krazy Kat

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

By the late 1940s, most of the marquee big bands fronted by Swing Era bandleaders featured bebop arrangements. Bebop's popularity at the end of the decade owed a great deal to the increased influence of jazz disc jockeys, concert promoters and writers who championed the new music. Developed mid-decade by African-American musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and Max Roach as well as a handful of white musicians including Stan Levey, Shelly Manne and Al ...

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