Posts filed under “Digital Media”
Another guest musical director for FNJ this week: Eddie Elfenbein of Crossing Wall Street on Artie Shaw. Take it away, Eddie:
Artie Shaw was cool. Not Elvis cool or Sinatra cool, but a darker, more subdued cool.
What Shaw did was make things look easy. Check out this clip and notice how, even after six decades, his music hasn’t aged a bit. It’s still fresh and smooth. It’s just…cool. (You gotta love Shaw’s reply to the compliments: “Yeah, yeah. Glass of water.” Pure cool.)
Artie Shaw was the very last of the big bandleaders. He died a year ago at age 94 and fifty years after his last performance. He wound up outliving all the greats—Goodman, Herman, Miller. Those names may loom larger today, but back then, Shaw’s star was the brightest. He was making $60,000 a week—not bad for the Depression. With America poised to enter World War II, Time magazine reported that Germans’ vision of America was “skyscrapers, Clark Gable and Artie Shaw.”
Fascists, apparently, have issues with tall buildings.
When Shaw hired Billie Holiday, he became the first white bandleader to hire a full-time black singer. But Shaw detested the limelight. In fact, Shaw hated the words “jazz” and “swing.” No, he considered himself a musician. He hated the audience. He hated the singers. He hated the dancers. He hated other bandleaders (“Benny Goodman played clarinet. I played music.”)
By 1951, Shaw walked away from music altogether and became—what else?—a dairy farmer. Crazy, maybe, but cool in its own way. Duke Ellington told him, “Man, you got more guts than any of us.”
So what did Shaw like? Women. Lots and lots of them. He was married eight times. He nabbed Betty Grable which would have pleased most men. Not Shaw. While they were engaged, he ran off with Lana Turner. (Whoa, Duke was right!) Shaw had an affair with Rita Hayworth. He dumped Judy Garland. He married Ava Gardner before Sinatra. How in earth did he have time enough time for music?
Ah, the music. Brilliant. Here’s an example: In 1938, Shaw took an obscure and forgotten Cole Porter song and made it a jazz classic. Have a listen to “Begin the Beguine.”
If you’re keeping score, that’s a Jewish bandleader playing Negro music written by a homosexual.
Exceedingly trivial trivia: “Begin the Beguine” has been performed a gazillion times since. In the movie, The Rocketeer, it’s performed by Melora Hardin, who’s better known as Jan in The Office. (Told you it was trivial.)
If you’ve never heard of Shaw and want to get your feet wet, I’d recommend: The Very Best of Artie Shaw
That pretty much has it all. Personally, I love “Star Dust” and “Deep Purple.” Wonderful stuff.
BR adds: Thanks Eddy — nicely done. There is a terrific recording of Shaw over at NPR: Performance by Shaw of Shaw’s 1940 Concerto for Clarinet
videos after the jump . .
Yet another talented UK vocalist taking her cues from the past, but with a modern twist: Amy Winehouse. Winehouse’s 2nd album, Back to Black, freshens up the classic soul albums with original songs done in the style of the 1950/60′s girl groups.
New Yorker Magazine got it just right — “a fierce English performer whose voice combines the smoky depths of a jazz chanteuse with the heated passion of a soul singer.” I hate when people compare a new performer with the greats, but you can say that stylistically, she falls between Billie Holiday and Ronnie Spector.
This is the fourth musician we’ve spotlighted, who have gone retro — delving into an older genre and freshening it up (Bitter:Sweet, James Hunter and Joss Stone were the first three). Except for Bitter:Sweet, they all seem to hail from England.
There’s a good interview here and 4 videos of acoustic versions of her songs after the jump (I cannot link to AOL’s DL as its a terribly annoying site)