Classic Artie Shaw Bluebird And Victor Sessions (#244)

On the heels of our successful Benny Goodman set is yet another magnificent seven disc Mosaic package of swing clarinet, this time from Artie Shaw. An improviser and technician of the highest order, Shaw’s inventions were a never-ending stream of melodic perfection cradled by a tone that was as full as any a clarinetist could wish for. And his bands, which were many during the stretch of time this set covers, were always well polished and professional (such leading figures as Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge and Buddy Rich are just a few of the names that played under the aegis of Shaw).

And as Shaw’s popularity grew (mainly because of his recording of “Begin The Beguine” a true hallmark of the Swing Era) so did a great debate occur beginning in the late 1930s. A division of camps between the Goodman and the Shavian school of clarinet. Even today, there are debates over the tone, execution and immediacy of their approach.

For my own personal take on this clash of the clarinets – I plead neutral. There are just as many BG sides that I wouldn’t part with, as there are examples of Shaw’s brilliance. What would my jazz-life be like without the chocolately-tone of “Alone Together”, the perfectly crafted solo on “It Had To Be You” (the Bluebird version) or Ray Conniff’s great arrangement of “’S Wonderful”, Tony Pastor and band swinging like mad on “Indian Love Call”, Buddy Rich’s fabulous drumming on “Traffic Jam”, the band’s collective swing on “Oh, Lady Be Good” or Artie’s solo on “Star Dust” – an improvisation that Charlie Lourie once remarked to Shaw about as “the most beautifully constructed jazz solo ever”.

Once again, having the vaults of the recorded world at our disposal, we were pleased to find the Bluebird and Victor metal parts and test pressings in immaculate condition. In fact, we’ve only had to use one commercially issued 78 in the entire run of all seven discs. These sources again brought out nuances never heard before, whether it be the subtle-swing of Davey Tough’s drums (he’s also on our Goodman set), the forward thinking pianist Dodo Marmarosa or the swagger of a Tony Pastor tenor solo or vocal.

This is total swing – honest and pure. Artie Shaw style.

Scott Wenzel

© Mosaic Records