Monday, January 03, 2005

Remembering Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw died over the weekend at the age of 94. In the 1930s the fierce debates of Shaw vs. Goodman were something like the Clapton vs. Hendrix debates of the 1960s. I've listened to much more of Goodman than Shaw, in part because of the seminal guitar work of Charlie Christian.

Here's a bio of Shaw from his offical website and AllMusic's bio. Arizona University, the repository for Shaw's arragements, has a nice Shaw site, which hopefully will be expanded.

But the best way to learn about Shaw would be to take a listen to the 5-CD set Self-Portrait

As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare." But Self Portrait is far from a superficial greatest-hits package; Shaw digs a lot deeper, offering highlights of the many bands that he led and taking a comprehensive look at his career.


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