He also employed the best musicians available, Buddy Rich, Billy Butterfield and Roy Eldridge are just three of the big jazz names that passed through the ranks, all are featured here. They still sound very good today and have stood the test of time very well. He makes them sound very easy, but be assured that is something they are not!
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The temperamental, progressive bandleader and clarinetist was one of the top figures in swing, and his arrangements and recordings of classic songs Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine," for example are definitive documents of the era. Shaw's own prowess as an instrumentalist, and his innovative techniques--his use of exotic melodies "Frenesi" and orchestral strings "Temptation" , for instance--further heighten his appeal. The set includes Mr. Shaw's performance with a string quartet and rhythm section at a jazz concert in that led to his debut as a band leader, as well as three appearances with classical groups and one with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, all issued now for the first time.
Thus, in one album, we have both the beginning and the end of Mr. Shaw's career as a leader. In , Mr. Shaw was a busy and successful studio musician, playing as a sideman for radio and recordings, when Joe Helbock, the owner of the Onyx, a hangout for jazz musicians on 52d Street, had the then novel idea of putting on a swing concert at the Imperial Theater. Shaw, asked to join in a program that included Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra and Bob Crosby's big band as well as small combos with Bunny Berrigan, Joe Bushkin and the guitarist Carl Kress, put together a seven-piece group - a string quartet with drums, guitar and his own clarinet - for which he wrote a single piece, ''Interlude in B-flat.
Shaw was leading his first big band at the Hotel Lexington - a swing band built around a swing quartet. Today ''Interlude in B-flat'' is little more than a curiosity - the cushion of strings under a jazz horn has become commonplace during the ensuing 50 years.
But even so, the distinctive sound of Mr.Shaw's big band interpretation of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" was number one on Your Hit Parade for months; in he had another popular hit with "Frenesi." In the same period, he wrote a blues called "Summit Ridge Drive" for his group The Gramercy Five, his small jazz ensemble within his big band.