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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



"Concertos For Clarinet"

Original Recordings 1937 - 1940





  1. Sweet Adeline
  2. Afraid to Dream
  3. Chant
  4. The Blues
  5. Shoot the Likker to Me, John Boy
  6. Indian Love Call
  7. Any Old Time
  8. Non-Stop Flight
  9. Softly As in a Morning Sunrise
  10. Rosalie
  11. Pastel blue
  12. Traffic Jam
  13. Frenesi
  14. Gloomy Sunday
  15. Summit Ridge Drive
  16. Star Dust
  17. Dr Livingstone I Presume
  18. Concerto for Clarinet

With Tony Paster on vocals as well as tenor sax, this is very typical of the Artie Shaw band of this time. It was very precise and neat, but it could swing and the leaders clarinet was always the outstanding solo instrument. I am sure that a lot of these tracks would not have been Shaw’s first choice to preserve for posterity, the requirements of the record companies for ‘hits’ is obviously a strong influence. Even on the more commercial tracks however, the class of the Shaw clarinet playing shines through like a beacon.

Billie Holliday’s distinctive voice is heard on Any Old Time, to hire a black singer with a white band in 1938 was rebellion on Shaw’s part, but he was not the kind of man to be dictated to by anyone. Non Stop Flight and Softly demonstrate Shaw’s complete mastery of the upper register on the clarinet, which anyone who has played the instrument knows is difficult to play well and consistently.

In 1938 he decided that he wanted the band to have more of a jazz feel and he hired Buddy Rich to play the drums and Georgia Auld on tenor sax, up to this time the ultra smooth Tony Pastern had been the main sax soloist Auld was much more an out and out jazzer.

Pastel Blue written jointly by Shaw and trumpeter Charlie Shavers has an Ellingtonian Fell about it, and once again Artie demonstrates his control of the high register, finishing the piece on a high C, a note many people can only get on a good day! Traffic Jam demonstrates just how the band could swing and it is to my mind the best track on the album with Rich propelling the band on to great things.

On later tracks the band is heard with a string section, something Artie always coveted and there is also Summit Ridge Drive and Dr Livingstone from the Gramercy Five which was Shaw’s answer to the Benny Goodman Quintet.

Who was the best out of Shaw and Goodman? I really don’t know, they were the two upstanding clarinet players of the era! The record finishes with the classic Concerto for Clarinet, which every budding clarinet player aspires to play.

Despite the commercial limitations imposed on some of Shaw’s work here, he comes through as one of the greatest jazz clarinet players the world has ever produced.

Don Mather

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