Artie Shaw: Perfection Quest - JazzWax

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February 10, 2012


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Rab Hines

Artie Shaw - we'll be talking about him for years to come. He could've make a serious reputation from his writing alone, and if you can find a copy of Baffler #8 you'll find an excerpt from 'Sideman' along with a fine profile of Shaw.

Thank you for the videos - anything with Gary Giddins in it is already a treat.

The profile can be found here;

Also, seeing how a Friday afternoon in the Jazzwax office is spent, I think to myself for the 1000th time "I want to be Marc Myers when I grow up."


Thanks for posting this highly informative documentary, Marc.

Artie Shaw, the man, wasn't as nice as one could believe when listening to his mostly happily swinging sounds.

He pretty much avoided getting too close to other people, to his fans, his children included.

As much as I love his music, there is a certain smooth-, a cleanness, I even would call it an intellectual cold, which you won't even find in much of Stan Kenton's music who was the other perfectionist of the big band leaders.

Regarding perfection, Glenn Miller's band came close, but was more "human", likable with all those popular charts, the sweet singers, and family-like appearance.

My favorite Shaw band of his four main orchestras he led between 1938 and 1949/50 is the 1938-39 outfit.

It had the grooviest rhythm section, and the best of all big band birdies: Helen Forrest, the so called "Madonna of the 2nd Chorus".

Gee, how I love those great broadcasts, made between 1938 & 1939 (I think I have all the LP's) and it's very unfortunate that they started to preserve them for posterity *after* Lady Day had left the band.

Artie Shaw was a very outspoken character, and has said some pretty mean things about other musicians; his music reflected the nicer side of the man, and we can only be thankful that he hasn't left just his books, but a rich, and almost entirely recorded musical heritage.

Even the beginning of his career as a band leader has been recorded, his legendary "Interlude In B-Flat" from the Howard Theater in 1936:

Steven C.

Thanks for the link to the Interlude. A true classic.

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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