Friday Night Jazz: Artie Shaw

Another guest musical director for FNJ this week: Eddie Elfenbein of Crossing Wall Street on Artie Shaw. Take it away, Eddie:

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Rare_and_unreleased 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.

Complete_gramercy_five_sessions
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.

Very_best_of_artie_shaw 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.

Two others you might enjoy are:  The Complete Gramercy Five Sessions (all the big band guys made smaller bands after the war); and Last Recordings: Rare and Unreleased.

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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 . .


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NFP: 88k (and I don’t believe even that)

The Payroll numbers are out, and they are not particularly pretty:

88,000 new jobs were created in April, according to BLS. This is the weakest job gain since November ’04. Cumulative revisions for prior months were to the downside by 26,000.

As expected, losses were in Manufacturing (19k), Retail (26k) and Construction (11k). The  weakness in Construction has been very uted, implying that the full impact of the housing slow down has yet to be fully realized.

Biggest gains were had in Services (116k), Education and Health (53k), Gov’t (25k) Professional (24k) and Leisure/Hospitality (22k).    

Temporary help jobs fell for a 3rd month (January was flat) making 4 consecutive months of no gains. Temp help tends to lead employment gains, and this weakness can be read as a future forecastor of employment.

We don’t pay close attention to the Household survey, (the self reported number is very volatile) but the drop of -468k was an eyebrow raiser.

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Birth Death Adjustment:  A whopping 317k B/D adjustment — that is the single largest "adjustment" on record for any single given month. And despite that giant add, the number was a very soft 88k.

To put this into some context, of those 317k new jobs hypothesized by BLS, 49k of those supposed jobs are in construction. Now what are the odds of that?

While Wall Street celebrates the upcoming recession, let me remind you that this economy requires about 150k new monthly jobs to merely keeep up with population growth.


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