[Dixielandjazz] Artie Shaw

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Fri Dec 31 09:10:32 PST 2004

Add my hurrahs  to all that's been said about Shaw, especially the 
unique Gramercy Five sides, with great use of the harpsichord, 
wonderful originals, and splendid Shaw solos. The big band stuff, even 
most of the non-classic and non-hit records, were also very special. 
How about "Gloomy Sunday" and "Take Your Shoes Off, Baby?" and...etc.

I was the youngest of five in my family, and swing era 78s were my 
oldest sister's favorites and the radio hits in N. O. in the early & 
mid- 40s. As a child I heard more Shaw and other swing than traditional 
and Dixieland jazz, which didn't get popular play until after the War. 
The Shaw records (and his dashing good looks) were what inspired my 
brother Don to take up clarinet. He bought stacks of Goodman and Shaw 
records but he always preferred Shaw. Don was 14 in 1947 when Benny 
Goodman gave him a trophy as the best young clarinetist in N.O. He was 
just learning how to jam, so ironically, he won by playing two Shaw 
solos he had memorized to perfection--"Taboo" and something else. Don 
Lasday was the runner up. Pete Fountain didn't make the finals! Don 
taught some of the Gramercy Five routines to Amy Sharpe, the banjoist 
and leader at the Court of Two Sisters, in the years before his death 
in 2003. They worked beautifully.

When Shaw said that Benny "wanted to be an instrumentalist -- he was a 
superb technician -- while I wanted to be a musician. I think my mind 
was more complex than his,'' I think he short-changed Goodman's 
joyfully fluent improvisation (especially on the small-group sides) but 
he was right on with the "complex mind" remark. Don used to say that 
Shaw didn't just jam his solos, he sculpted them. He swung, but his 
lines seemed so well thought out, even on the romping Gramercy Five 

Some of the obits stressed Shaw's love life, interesting but a bit of a 
distraction from his contributions to music.The Sudhalter chapters in 
"Lost Chords" are a good tribute.

Charlie Suhor

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