Culled from a five-disc retrospective of Shaw's career, this tidy roundup features material from across the popular and critically acclaimed clarinetist and bandleader. And while 14 tracks is somewhat on the skimpy side, the collection will work well for Shaw newcomers in search of a well-balanced introduction. The set benefits greatly from sparkling sound and the artist's shrewd hand in picking out all the songs included for the box set. The bulk of the sampler includes tracks from Shaw's 1938-1945 big band prime, including "Nightmare," "Free Wheeling," "Frenesi," and a stunning strings-augmented version of his first big hit, "Begin the Beguine." The disc also features Billie Holiday's one-off vocal with him, "Any Old Time," and such later highlights from the '50s as a sumptuous reading of "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" (Shaw is featured with a small combo) and the Gramercy Five cut "Scuttlebutt." Along with Hank Jones and Tal Farlow, who are heard on the Gramercy Five side, the collection features such swing royalty as Buddy Rich, George Auld, and Roy Eldridge. With quality like this, it's only a matter of time before Shaw newbies will want to head back to pick up all five discs.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook