[Dixielandjazz] Jazz & Strings Shaw - Bird - Whiteman - Others?

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Jan 2 13:39:21 PST 2005

"Stan Brager" <sbrager at socal.rr.com> wrote
> Artie Shaw also created quite a stir in the jazz community when he performed
> in New York City with a string section as early as 1935. See Art Shaw and
> His Orchestra in 1936 for some great recordings. Most have been reissued on
> Columbia (Sony) label CD's.

Yes, Shaw played with Strings at the "Swing Music Concert", New York's
Imperial Theater, May 24, 1936. It was a benefit for Local 802, AF of M.
Also appearing that night were Red Norvo, Mildred Bailey, and Bunny Berigan.

Shaw decided to use sting backing on the spur of the moment. He had been
working classical music gigs, for the previous year with a string quartet
and decided to use them at this concert.

Their first number was a piece Shaw called "Interlude in B flat", which Shaw
put together very quickly.

After a classical opening, the jazz theme is loosely based upon the chord
changes of "Shine". Shaw himself said that the audience was still loud after
the previous band got done. (Standard Brass/Reeds/Rhythm sections etc) but
they started quieting down immediately when he began with a "classical"
thematic approach and a cadenza. He claims to have been frightened because
they got so quiet, but then when the "jazz" portion hit, they started
applauding. They gave him a prolonged standing ovation. They followed with
"Japanese Sandman", also with strings.

About Bird & Strings. The jazz critics panned it unmercifully when it was
released. They claimed, and still do to this day that Bird is way below par
for creativity on the record. Bird himself? He thought it was the best thing
he had ever done and was very proud of it. Go figure.

Others jazzers with strings include Paul Whiteman. His orchestra appears
with a string section, in the 1930 movie biography of him, "King of Jazz".

Maybe others too? Does anyone have the instrumental make up of Will Marion
Cook's Southern Syncopated Orchestra?, Or James Reese Europe's Orchestra in
1919, or the Clef Club Orchestra earlier? Since Cook and Europe were
violinists, they might have used a string section, and of course, Bechet
played in France with the SSO in the 1920s.

Steve Barbone

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