More so than in his own autobiography, The Trouble with Cinderella: An Outline of Identity (New York City: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952), Shaw seems to have, finally, opened up to someone about his personal life, experiences, and emotions.
To give a better-rounded (and less-biased) picture of the man, Nolan also talked with 100 others who were, in some way, associated with Shaw - ranging from his former musicians including Zeke Zarchy, Paul Cohen, and Hank Jones; to friends Frederic Morton and Elliot Kastner; to Shaw's longtime personal assistant, Larry Rose, and even one of his two sons, Jonathan.
Besides important factual information not previously published, such as the birth year, marriage, and death dates for Shaw's parents, Nolan sprinkles in generous helpings of gossip, including details of Shaw's seven marriages (to actresses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, et al) and his dozens of affairs, including one with singer Lee Wiley.
Nolan has succeeded admirably in weaving together a factual and fascinating story, and, just in the preface alone, makes a number of thoughtful observations, such as that while Shaw had "impeccable taste" as a player, bandleader, arranger, and musical editor, his own behavior with women and friends was "often appalling."
Incidentally, quotations of saxophonist Teddy McRae verify how he (and not John Bartee, as some recent sources have erroneously claimed) wrote Back Bay Shuffle for Shaw's 1938 band.
Other than hyphenating the spelling of clarinet as "clar-inet" a couple of times, I only noticed one typo in the whole text, when Nolan called John Tumpak "Turnpak."
There aren't a lot of photographs in Nolan's book, but what is there - especially a group portrait of Shaw's family when he was a young boy and a photo of him in Chicago in 1930 - avoids overly-familiar images.
Shaw was a driven, complex (and, admittedly, often difficult) individual who led a long, full life and had conflicting (and confounding) parts to his personality - and, therefore, would be a challenge for any biographer. I do feel compelled to say, however, that the times I was privileged to speak with him, he was always polite and kind to me.
Ironically, as Nolan pointed out, even though Shaw "thrilled millions with his music," his own "most consistent pleasure seemed to come from sitting alone with a book." Too bad Shaw can't read this one, since he always enjoyed well-done music, art, and literature.
Big Band Library rating: EXCELLENT
Strictly in Shaw's Own Words
One portion of Artie Shaw's trio of novellas, I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead!: Variations On a Theme (Fleet Publishing, 1965), was a fictionalized account of the relationship of dramatist-author William Saroyan and his wife, Carol.
In the 1980s, Saroyan's son, Aram, became a friend of Shaw's and has, in a new, 52-page work, Artie Shaw Talking, transcribed comments by Shaw from some conversations they shared.
The thin book, published in Los Angeles by Air, contains chapters organized around certain moments or aspects of Shaw's life, including his psychoanalysis with Dr. May Romm; marriages to Lana Turner and Ava Gardner; two trumpeters who played in his band, Chuck Peterson and Roy Eldridge; the effect of McCarthyism on his career; and which side of the family his musical talent may have come from.
Shaw was an enthusiastic and colorful raconteur, and, as Saroyan observed, "It occured to me that his talking may have replaced his playing."
The speaker, as always, is interesting, but the packaging is plain. The cover to Saroyan's book is quite simple, there is not a single illustration within, and parts of the text already appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine and the London Review of Books.
Big Band Library rating: GOOD
Full-Length Stan Kenton Bio
English-born Michael Sparke, a retired teacher and recognized Stan Kenton expert, has written a new, 400-page book, Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra!, published this month by The University of North Texas Press.
Sparke had previously written liner notes for several Kenton CDs and collaborated with Dutch discographer Pete Venudor on the research Kenton On Capitol & Creative World: A
Discography (Tiare Publications, 1994) and Stan Kenton: The Studio Sessions: A
Discography (Balboa Books, 1998).
Besides providing biographical information about Kenton's life, in This Is an Orchestra! Sparke describes how Kenton's music evolved and critically evaluates Kenton's role as a leader, pianist, and composer. Many of the sidemen who worked with Kenton's band are quoted.
I think that anyone who enjoys Kenton's music will appreciate this new title.
In-Print and / or Online
Eric Aasen. "At 91, Aubrey native Louise Tobin recalls singing with big band greats,"
Dallas [ TX ] Morning News, May 24, 2010.
Daniel Akst. "When Everything Was Jumpin': The mercurial jazz maestro Artie Shaw was
a brilliant clarinetist and an often odious husband and friend," Wall Street Journal,
May 14, 2010 [ positive review of Tom Nolan's new Shaw biography ].
Celia R. Baker. "Donning the jacket of jazz bandleader Artie Shaw," Salt Lake City [ UT ]
Tribune, May 22, 2010 [ discusses a Shaw tribute concert by The New Deal Swing
Band with clarinetist Tad Calcara, who will be wearing one of Shaw's own jackets
during the performance ].
"Book Calendar," Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2010 [ Tom Nolan presents and signs
copies of his new Shaw biography at Book Soup in West Hollywood, CA ].
Harvey G. Cohen. Duke Ellington's America (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2010)
[ about 720-pg. social history of Ellington's world ].
Norm Cohen. "The RCA Victor Vintage LP Series: Homage to Brad McCuen and a
Tribute to Archie Green," ARSC Journal, Spring 2010, pp.1-23 [ discusses RCA's
well-done "Vintage Series" reissue program of 1964-72, the idea for which came from
record executive Brad McCuen ].
Bruce Fessier. "Singer Kay Starr is doing things her way," [ Palm Springs, CA ]
Desert Sun, May 30, 2010 [ Starr formerly sang with Miller, Crosby, Venuti, and Barnet;
now age 87, she appeared on the 30th of this month at Lyons English Grill in Palm
Julie Flemming. "Satchmo and Bunny shared love of trumpet," Beaver Dam [ WI ]
Daily Citizen, May 9, 2010 [ recalls the admiration of Louis Armstrong and Bunny
Berigan for each other's talent ].
Will Friedwald. "What Swing-Era Audiences Saw and Heard: An essential DVD
package of 64 music one-reelers from 1930 to 1947," Wall Street Journal, May 22,
2010 [ review of the "Warner Bros. Big Band, Jazz & Swing Short Subject Collection" ].
Ted Gioia. "Three Chords for Beauty's Sake: The Life of Artie Shaw," San Francisco
[ CA ] Chronicle, May 2, 2010, p.FE-5 [ another positive review of Tom Nolan's book ].
Stephen Holden. "'Begin the Beguine' and Other Delicacies From the Shaw Oeuvre,"
New York Times, May 26, 2010 [ review of a Shaw tribute concert by singer Daryl
Sherman, who worked with the 1983 Shaw Orchestra, and the Anderson Twins,
Pete and Will ].
Patrick Jarenwattananon. "NPR Marks The Artie Shaw Centennial," National Public
Radio / npr.org, May 23, 2010 [ lists various NPR features about Shaw, including
Terry Gross' 1985 interview with Shaw on "Fresh Air" ].
George Kanzler. "100 Years of Artie Shaw," allaboutjazz.com, May 15, 2010 [ review of
three Shaw CDs on Nimbus and latest two on Hep ].
Michael D. Langan. "Artie Shaw, the gifted artist, gets his due," Buffalo [ NY ] News,
May 23, 2010 [ further positive review of Tom Nolan's book ].
Marc Myers. "Savvy Widows Leverage Jazz Legends' Legacies," Wall Street Journal,
May 13, 2010 [ includes comments by Louie Bellson's widow, Francine ].
Mike Plaskett and Dale Abraham. "Get To Know Clarinetist Artie Shaw," National Public
Radio / npr.org, May 22, 2010 [ five selections as an introduction to Shaw's music:
Streamline, If It's You, Special Delivery Stomp, Back Bay Shuffle, and A Room with
a View ].
"Reluctant Genius of Jazz: Artie Shaw at 100," Riverwalk Jazz, National Public Radio /
npr.org, May 2010.
"Scaled back Berigan event worth a listen," Beaver Dam [ WI ] Daily Citizen, May 9,
2010 [ promotes the annual "Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee," which was reduced to
one day this year ].
John Tumpak. "Johnny Hodges Sensuous Musical Beauty," L.A. Jazz Scene, May 2010,
pp.3-5 [ recalling alto saxophonist Hodges' career with Webb '27-'28; and Ellington
'28-'51 / '55-'70 ].
Tom Vitale. "Artie Shaw At 100: Celebrating A Swing Era Sensation," National Public
Radio / npr.org, May 23, 2010.
New Compact Discs
Benny Carter. "Jazz Giant Complete Sessions," Fresh Sound Records ( Sp ) FSR-CD
2256 [ recorded 1957-58 and originally released as Contemporary S7555 ].
Dizzy Gillespie. "Have Trumpet, Will Excite! / The Ebullient Mr. Gillespie," Fresh Sounds
Records ( Sp ) FSR-CD 580 [ = two 1959 Verve LPs, MG-V8313 and MG-V8328 ].
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Warren Covington. "Hey There," Montpellier ( UK )
MONTCD 065 [ select Decca recordings including Cheek to Cheek, Star Dust,
Caravan, Woodchoppers Ball, Traffic Jam, and Amapola ].
Bobby Hackett. "Bobby Hackett Quartet / Easy Beat," Jazz Plaza Music 8805 [ = two
Capitol LPs, ST1235 and ST1413, recorded in 1959 ].
Neal Hefti. "...And the Winner Is: The Award-Winning Songs From 1934 to 1957,"
Montpellier ( UK ) MONTCD 067 [ originally two Coral LPs, "The Hollywood Song
Book Vol. 1 and 2, CRL757241 and 757242 ].
Gene Krupa. "Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements: The Complete Studio Recordings,"
American Jazz Classics 99020 [ = the 1958 Verve LP MG-VS6008 with other tracks
added; NOTE: basic album was released on CD in 2005 as Verve B0002022-02 ].
Guy Lombardo. "Berlin By Lombardo," Vocalion ( UK ) CDLF 8141 [ = the 1959 LP,
Capitol ST 1019, with seven medleys of Irving Berlin songs ].
---. "By Request: Your Guy Lombardo Medley: Volume 3," Vocalion ( UK ) CDLF 8144
[ = the 1961 LP, Capitol ST 1598, with medleys of fox trots and waltzes ].
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien. "King of Swing," Victor Entertainment
( Japan ) VICP-47005/06 [ 2-CD set; mixture of recordings from various GMO CDs ].
Don Redman. "Free and Easy," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY816 [ recorded 1957;
NOTE: material (and more) already available on CD in 2005 as "Don Redman and His
Orchestra: At the Swing Cats Ball," Fresh Sounds Records ( Sp ) FSR-CD 393 ].
Various artists. "The Miller Men," Montpellier ( UK ) MONTCD 066 [ NOTE: the 12 Jerry
Gray selections were previously available on CD in 1997 as Simitar 55252 and the
7 Ray Eberle vocals were previously available (plus more) on CD in 1997 as Simitar
Various artists. "Classic Musical Shorts From the Dream Factory," Warner Archive
Collection [ 1928-1948; not all big bands but includes a half-dozen of Martin Block's
"Musical Merry-Go-Round" shorts from 1948, with Freddy Martin, Tex Beneke, Les
Brown, Ray Noble, and Frankie Carle ].
Happy Birthday to You
Van Alexander, b.May 2, 1915. Arranger with Webb '36-'38 and bandleader '39-'43 /
Capitol LPs '59-'62.
Buddy Catlett, b.May 13, 1933. Bassist with Basie '62-'64.
Al Porcino, b.May 15, 1925. Trumpeter with Herman '49 / '54 / '59; Kenton '55 / '60 / '65; J.
Eddie Bert, b.May 16, 1922. Trombonist with Norvo '41-'42; Herman '43 / '50; Kenton '47;
McKinley '52; Les Elgart '54; Lawrence '55-'59.
Gene DiNovi, b.May 26, 1928. Pianist with Shaw '49; Goodman '48 / '59.
Lorrie Peters, b.May 20, 1932. Vocalist with McKinley-Miller '57-'59? / '61 RCA Victor LP
"Glenn Miller Time".
Rob McConnell, 75, d.May 1, 2010, cancer. Trombonist with Ferguson '64.
Lena Horne, 92, d.May 9, 2010. Vocalist with Barnet ('40-'41); Shaw (Love Me a Little
Little and Don't Take Your Love From Me '41).
Hank Jones, 91, d.May 16, 2010, "after a brief illness." Pianist with Kirk '45; Shaw '53-'54;
Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes. May 1, Southern Illinois University,
Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL.
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole. May 15, Brighton, MI.
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow. May 1, Ipswich Performing Arts
Center, Ipswich, MA; May 2, Capitol Theatre, Rome, NY.
Les Elgart Orchestra directed by Russ Dorsey. May 30, Temple Emanu-El , Dallas, TX.
Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Paul Mercer Ellington. May 21, Quad City
Convention Center, Bettendorf, IA; May 22, Performing Arts Center, Aurora, IL; May 26,
Concert Hall, Xi'an, China; May 27, Xing Hai Concert Hall, Guangzhou, China; May 29,
"Beijing Jazz Festival," Beijing, China; May 30, Oriental Arts Center, Shanghai, China.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke. May 1, Waterloo, IA; May 2, Fairmont,
MN; May 6, Norway, MI; May 9, Charlotte, MI; May 27, Penn's Peak, Jim Thorpe, PA.
Sammy Kaye Orchestra directed by Roger Thorpe. May 22, Sunnybrook Ballroom,
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien. May 1, Roberts Weslayan College,
Rochester, NY; May 2, Lyle G. Palmer Auditorium, Springville, NY; May 4,
Williamson High School, Williamson, WV; May 6, Penns Valley Area High School,
Spring Mills, PA; May 7, State Theatre, Easton, PA; May 8, The F.M. Kirby Center,
Wilkes-Barre, PA; May 9, The Chevalier Theatre, Medford, MA; May 10, Moriah Central
School, Port Henry, NY; May 14, [ private ], Jumer's Casino & Hotel, Rock Island, IL;
May 15, Governors State University, University Park, IL; May 16, Renaissance Theatre,
Mansfield, OH; May 20, Stamford High School, Stamford, CT; May 21, Paramount
Theatre, Rutland, VT; May 22, St. Anselm College, Manchester, NH; May 23, The
Warner Theatre, Torrington, CT; May 24, Caesers Casino, Atlantic City, NJ; May 26,
Cultural Arts Center, Glen Allen, VA; May 27, Arts Council Community Performance Ct.,
Rock Hill, SC; May 28, Country Tonite Theatre, Pigeon Forge, TN; May 29,
Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, Chattanooga, TN.
Russ Morgan Orchestra directed by Jack Morgan. May 2, Hilton Hotel, College Station, TX.
Moonracers, Move On
The planned Atlantic City, NJ gathering of The Vaughn Monroe Society this month was postponed.
"First and foremost we just did not receive the number of participants required to make this event worth while (we had one confirmed attendee)," Lou Kohnen and Claire Schwartz, co-founders of the Society, explained.
But fans and associates of Monroe, such as his former publicist, Dixon Gayer, continue to encourage them to keep up their good work.
"I knew Vaughn very well and I know that he would be so proud of the tremendous amount of time and effort you two have put into keeping his memory alive," Gayer wrote to Kohnen and Schwartz. "He appreciated everything caring people did to make his musical career meaningful . . . To have done all you have done in your love and respect for Vaughn is incredible."