The first 20 recordings led by Artie Shaw are reissued on this CD. The great swing clarinetist's original idea was to lead a small big band with strings in 1936. The initial session (from June 11) has four horns, a string quartet, and a four-piece rhythm section, heard at their best on "The Japanese Sandman" and "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody." By the second session, two months later, a fifth horn had been added and the lineup included tenor saxophonist Tony Pastor (who also took vocals), singer Peg Lacentra, and arranger Jerry Gray playing one of the violins. Highlights of the unusual (and short-lived) orchestra include "Sugar Foot Stomp," "Thou Swell," and "The Skeleton in the Closet." This band had a lot of potential, but unfortunately the general public preferred louder, larger, and less-subtle ensembles, so Shaw reluctantly broke up his first orchestra early in 1937.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow