Artie Shaw

The Very Best of Artie Shaw

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This RCA Victor compilation features some of Shaw's finest work spanning the years 1938-1945. As such, it's an interesting document in the history of World War II America. All 18 tracks are meticulously annotated, and Loren Schoenberg's biographical essay is a gem -- well-written, insightful, and free of banality and cliché. As for the music, it's classic swing, with performances by Billie Holiday, Buddy Rich, Roy Eldridge, and many more. The sound is top-notch by reissue standards. Shaw's masterful clarinet is a powerful presence, but there's also the writing and arranging to consider: Gershwin's "Summertime," Thomas Griselle's "Nocturne," Shaw's "Concerto for Clarinet," and Eddie Sauter's "The Maid With the Flaccid Air" take some pretty innovative turns, balancing out more pop-oriented fare like "Begin the Beguine" and "Deep Purple." (The latter would become a theme song of sorts for Marie Osmond some 35 years later.) The inclusion of three barnstorming radio broadcasts from 1939, "Everything Is Jumpin'," "My Blue Heaven," and "Diga Diga Doo," make the package all the more valuable. For a concise yet thorough introduction to Shaw's intelligent brand of swing, one couldn't ask for better.

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