Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Artie Shaw - Greatest Hits
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Artie Shaw was a reluctant bandleader, frequently leaving the music business for extended periods, often at the peak of his powers. Despite that, he was never at a loss for musical ideas, and he had an uncanny ability for ... more »
Artie Shaw was a reluctant bandleader, frequently leaving the music business for extended periods, often at the peak of his powers. Despite that, he was never at a loss for musical ideas, and he had an uncanny ability for assembling first-rate musicians, rehearsing them intently, and creating hit records. This CD is a good introduction to one of the swing era's greatest bands, though its concentration is squarely on hits, often meaning ballads and familiar songs. "Begin the Beguine," a hit for Shaw in 1938, set the pattern for the leader's emphasis on strong melody, richly orchestrated. That melodic bias even led him to incorporate a string section into the band, but he managed to do it more effectively than any other jazz musician of the era. "Stardust" and "Frenesi" are gorgeous treatments, while "To a Broadway Rose" shows strings could swing. Shaw also had a good singer in Helen Forrest, heard on "Come Love" and "Deep Purple," and a great one in Billie Holiday, who appears on Shaw's own "Any Old Time." The greatest drawback with this selection is the absence of any personnel listings apart from the featured vocalists. Even Tony Pastor, who sings on "Indian Love Call," is uncredited. Fine for casual listeners, it's frustrating for those seeking to identify the other soloists. Among the omitted names are tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld, trumpeters Chuck Peterson and Billy Butterfield, and trombonist Jack Jenney. --Stuart Broomer
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Great swing! A good compilation...but there are better ones!
Ryan Harvey | Los Angeles, CA USA | 03/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This compilation, from the RCA Victor "budget jazz" line, contains fourteen tracks of music by master swing clarinetist and big band leader Artie Shaw. Shaw, a consummate musician with no taste for the `business' side of the music business (he kept disbanding his orchestras at the height of their popularity whenever he felt artistically compromised), was one of greatest and most vital musicians of the swing era, and the pieces here show him at his best with two of his big bands.However, this compilation is weaker than some of the others on the market right now. "Begin the Beguine" from the Bluebird Treasury Series and "The Very Best of Artie Shaw," also from RCA Victor, are longer collections with a better survey of Shaw's music, and cost comparatively only a bit more. Most of the important tracks on this album ("Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and "Oh! Lady Be Good") are also on these collections, plus they have a greater selection of music from some of Artie Shaw's more unusual bands, such as the small group The Gramercy Five. These albums are better deals than what you'll find here.But still, you can't really go TOO wrong with this album; the music is simply too good. The majority of the tracks come from Shaw's most popular big band, the one he formed in 1938 and disbanded in late 1939. He had previously formed a band in 1936 using a string quartet as part of the ensemble, but this band failed to catch anybody's attention (none of these recordings are on this CD -- or the other two that I mentioned). But the 1938-39 band was a sensation, and Shaw knocked Benny Goodman off the `King of Swing' throne for a brief time. The pieces on here from this era are: "Begin the Beguine" (Shaw's most well-known number, and a masterpiece of romantic swing), "Comes Love" (with a great vocal by Shaw's most popular female vocalist, Helen Forrest), "Deep Purple" (another vocal from Helen Forrest), "Any Old Time" (the only recording the band made with Billie Holiday during her brief tenure as their singer), "Indian Love Call" (a wonderful swing interpretation of this usually slow ballad, with a great scat vocal from saxophonist Tony Pastor), "Oh! Lady Be Good" (a superb, hard swinging number!), and a live version of "St. Louis Blues" (another big band swinger, from the venerable W. C. Handy blues tune).The rest of the tracks come from Shaw's orchestra of 1940-41, a huge band of 22 musicians which made extensive use of a string section. This band never swung as hard as the first (honestly, I personally never liked the strings), but turned out some very good pieces. The best are "Temptation" and "Frenesi," both huge sellers and good swing dance numbers. "Stardust" and "Moonglow" are pretty ballad instrumentals (Shaw also recorded these numbers with the '38-'39 band) and show off Shaw's great clarinet technique. "To a Broadway Rose" seems to start as a `sweet n' pretty' number, but turns into a really joyous and jumpin' swing piece. Only "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Lover, Come Back to Me" are disappointing -- the only minor tracks on this album.But even considering the quality of the music on this CD, you'll still get a better deal on most of the same music, plus much more, with the compilations "Begin the Beguine" and "The Very Best of Artie Shaw.""