Artie Shaw has been gone since 2004 and he last played the clarinet in public around fifty years before that, so the people who heard him play must be diminishing day by day. But he remains an astonishing musician and a public figure capable of stirring up controversies. I offer three ways of looking at the King of the Clarinet.
One is a glimpse of the intelligent but highly prickly writer, as evidenced by this letter for sale on eBay:
Another is through Tom Nolan’s superb biography, THREE CHORDS FOR BEAUTY’S SAKE, which I’ve reviewed here: https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/three-chords-for-beautys-sake-artie-shaw-by-tom-nolan/
But these pieces of paper don’t always get us close to the music.
Rather than coop yourself up with the Bluebirds or the new Mosaic set, why not come out and hear New York City’s finest jazz musicians play a tribute to Artie? The reed-playing Andersons, Will and Peter Reardon, have planned two weeks of Shaw-inspired jazz at 59e59 in New York City. They’re not only fine clarinetists but fine musicians: these concerts will be lively and evocative but far from note-for-note recreations of famous Shaw solos. The Anderson Twins Sextet will include Jon-Erik Kellso, Ehud Asherie, and Kevin Dorn.
The first week — Tuesday, May 18, through Sunday, May 23 — will be an instrumental fiesta, with the band exploring the rivalry (real and imagined) between Artie and Benny Goodman (something their respective fans keep arguing about) Details: http://www.59e59.org/shows/WhoWasKing.html. The next week will move away from clarinet-a-la-rancor and add the gifted singer Daryl Sherman, who sang with Artie’s “last” band and no doubt has some good stories to tell in between songs: http://www.59e59.org/shows/DarylSherman.html.
For those who haven’t been to this theatre, it is (reassuringly) located at 59 East 59th Street in New York City: www.59e59.org. or (212) 753-5959 for more information.