[Dixielandjazz] Artie Shaw By Floyd Levin

Robert S. Ringwald robert at ringwald.com
Fri Mar 25 14:52:10 PST 2005

 You are a Jazz musician.  You are doing a concert.  you just finished what 
perhaps might have been the best solo you ever played.  The audience does 
not respond.  What is your feeling?

You are a listener.  You just heard a great solo.  Do you applaud?

Below is Artie Shaw's take on applause while the song is still being played.


Artie Shaw on "Applause During a Performance
By Floyd Levin

Recently, while sorting through some old files, I came across a
transcript of Artie Shaw's Keynote Address at the 1998 Convention of the
International Association of Jazz Record Collectors in Redondo Beach,
The following is a small portion of Shaw's sagacious comments made
without notes during his two-hour non-stop address.  It was in response
to a question from the audience regarding applause or loud talking
during a performance.

He said:
"I can only suggest that each of you personally can be an emissary.
Tell people to stop it!  When they start applauding in the middle of the
piece say, 'Shhhhh!' "Eventually, they might pay attention, that's all I
can say.  If music is good, it's there to be listened to.  If they do
not want to hear it, they should go somewhere else -play baseball, anything!
"I can't understand the need for this immediate display of one's ego.
('Boy, I know how good that is, so I'm going to get up and clap!') You
have nothing to do with it, just be quiet and listen until it's
finished.  Then you can clap, or boo if you like, but, at least, you
will have allowed the musicians to say what they had to say!"
"Tell everybody you know to always hold their applause until the end of
the number.  Suggest that they also tell that to their friends.
Hopefully, the truth might come through.  People might ultimately shut
up and listen.  If they don't want to shut up, they should leave, and
not spoil it for people who do come to listen.
" Audiences have a propensity to clap; for a musician after he finishes
his solo.. The player who follows him tries to enhance what has just
been played and then make his own musical comment -but the blur of
applause wipes-out his opening bars.
"My advice is to pay attention -you will often hear something very
startling. If you are busy clapping  'to show your appreciation, you are
not able to listen to what the next soloist is trying to do. It is
supposed to be a musical conversation, but when people are busy
whistling, clapping, and stamping their feet; they miss the whole point
of it! "You would not hear concert audiences clapping when Heifitz
finished a cadenza in the middle of a Mendelssohn or Beethoven concerto!
They waited respectfully until the piece  was over.
"When I was playing music, I often found it necessary to admonish the
audience -and it did not make me a popular figure!  I remember the last
time I fronted a band.  I had a fine small group at The Embers in 1954,
and Hank Jones was my pianist; he was a genius, a great player.  Tal
Farlow was on guitar, Tal died only recently.  Tommy Potter was playing
bass.  Tommy was in the first Charlie Parker band.  Joe Roland played
vibes.  I've got some of the recordings we made that were released on Verve.
"If people were: talking too loud, I'd stop the band, and I'd say,
'Ladies and gentlemen, it's axiomatic that music sounds better against
silence.  Give me enough silence so I. can hear what I'm doing and we
can hear each other.  And when you're ready to listen, we'll be back'
.And I would walk off the stand.
"Well, most of the audience wanted to hear the band, that's what they
were there for, so they would applaud my remarks, and finally the noisy
ones would shut up.
"If they didn't, I would instruct my band manager to pick up their check
and tell them to leave.  'Tell them they were my guests -but get out of
here!' They could not argue with that, and they would be glad to leave
-and talk somewhere else.  "


No one can accuse Artie.  Shaw of reticence !
My transcript of his remarks, from Dr. Walter F.  Kempe's video, fills
over 20 single-spaced pages crammed with  Shawisms that bear repeating.
I plan to eventually re-cycle some additional segments Some are
shocking, some are reveling. and some are humorous--but they all reflect
Artie Shaw's insightful, albeit highly opinionated views of the music
business. Stand by.

Floyd Levin

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