Clarinetist Artie Shaw broke up his big band in late 1945 and, other than some studio recordings, was mostly inactive for a few years. In 1949 he returned to the scene in a surprising way, playing classical music for a week at New York's Bop City to mixed reviews. Later in the year he formed a bebop-oriented orchestra, but it was a commercial failure despite playing excellent music. He soon retired again, only returning during 1953-1954 when he led an excellent modern version of his Gramercy Five, his last group before his permanent retirement. The Artistry of Artie Shaw is comprised of some very rare material. Shaw is heard first on radio transcriptions from December 1949 leading a boppish version of his Gramercy Five that includes trumpeter Don Fagerquist and guitarist Jimmy Raney. Next are 12 selections, the majority of which are adaptations of themes from classical music. Shaw is heard with a jazz rhythm section, a string orchestra, and sometimes woodwinds, French horns, and the New Music String Quartet. This music has rarely ever been reissued and is worth a few close listens by fans of both Shaw and classical music. Completing this set are six selections from the 1953-1954 Gramercy Five with vibraphonist Joe Roland, guitarist Tal Farlow, and pianist Hank Jones that have not been reissued in recent times and differ from the performances put out by Music Masters. Throughout, Artie Shaw plays quite well and, particularly on the latter selections, shows that he had an awful lot left to contribute to the music world before his premature retirement.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow