Artie Shaw

Shaw, Artie, 1910–2004, American clarinetist and bandleader, b. New York City as Arthur Jacob Arshawsky. He began playing professionally as a teenager, becoming a studio musician in New York after 1929. In 1935 he formed his first band, an unusual grouping that included clarinet, string quartet, and rhythm section, which he used in a critically acclaimed performance of his jazz chamber piece Interlude in B Flat. A year later he established a more orthodox swing band, and with it recorded (1938) his first hit, a sweetly swinging version of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" that quickly became a jazz classic. In 1940 he organized a smaller band, the Gramercy Five, which he reformed several times with various combinations of musicians, and from the mid-1940s to the mid-50s he led a number of big bands. Considered one of swing's two great clarinetists (the other, his rival Benny Goodman), Shaw was a virtuoso at his instrument. Among his greatest hits were early 40s recordings of "Frenesi,""Stardust,""Moonglow," and "Dancing in the Dark." He retired from music in 1954.

See his autobiography (1952, repr. 1992); biographies by V. Simosko (2000), J. White (2004), and T. Nolan (2010); B. Berman, dir., Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got (documentary film, 1985; Academy Award).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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