Artie Shaw

Self Portrait [Bluebird Anthology]

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As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare." But Self Portrait is far from a superficial greatest-hits package; Shaw digs a lot deeper, offering highlights of the many bands that he led and taking a comprehensive look at his career. Although Shaw often featured singers, they aren't a high priority on Self Portrait; however, the vocalists who he felt were worth including range from Pauline Byrne on "Gloomy Sunday" (1940) and Hot Lips Page on "Blues in the Night" (1941) to Billie Holiday on his pleasing, if overexposed, 1938 recording of "Any Old Time." The vast majority of the 95 tracks are swing, but some excellent small-group recordings from 1954 find Shaw exploring bebop and cool jazz -- and they indicate that if he had not retired from music, he would have had a bright future as a bebopper. Obviously, a five-CD set is too much for casual listeners, who would be better off with one of the many single-disc collections of Shaw's major hits. But for those who have more than a casual interest in his work, Self Portrait is a jazz feast.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:50
2 2:54
3 2:25
4 2:52
5 2:59
6 2:49 Amazon
7 3:07 Amazon
8 3:08
9 3:14 Amazon
10 3:11
11 3:18
12 2:29
13 3:42
14 2:29
15 3:38 Amazon
16 2:42
17 2:43 Amazon
18 2:16 Amazon
19 3:14
20 4:06
21 2:44
22 3:42
23 5:07 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 4:01
2 3:34
3 3:41
4 2:42
5 3:03
6 3:40
7 3:01
8 3:31
9 3:16
10 3:11
11 2:52
12 3:21
13 3:22
14 9:15
15 3:34
16 3:03
17 3:30
18 3:34
19 3:13

Track Listing - Disc 3

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:19
2 4:19
3 3:26
4 3:21
5 3:25
6 4:15
7 4:38
8 3:31
9 3:03
10 3:07
11 3:18
12 2:57
13 3:06
14 5:00
15 3:09
16 2:40
17 3:08
18 3:05
19 3:50
20 2:48

Track Listing - Disc 4

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:18
2 3:04
3 2:59
4 3:14
5 3:05
6 2:10
7
3:20
8 3:36
9 3:41
10 3:27
11 3:02
12 3:24
13 3:20
14 2:40
15 4:07
16 3:28
17 3:47
18 3:11
19 3:53
20 4:48
21 3:29
blue highlight denotes track pick