Artie Shaw this week – another in a month long series of broadcasts Shaw and his orchestra did for the Coca-Cola Victory Parade Of Bands broadcasts from 1945. This one at the Santa Barbara Army Ground and Services Forces Redistribution Station from October 10, 1945.
No question, Shaw was an outstanding virtuoso musician, as well as composer and innovator, taking the confines of the classic big band lineup and expanding it, trying different instrumental combinations along the way. He left an indelible mark in the genre of Jazz, which at times has been overlooked, but traced back to his early days you can sense he was doing things a bit differently than his compatriots.
He was also a Pop-Culture icon, married some 8 times to some of the higher profile stars in Hollywood of the day. He was engaged as an actor, and appeared regularly in that capacity on some of the more popular Radio programs in the late 1930s and 1940s. Being a Pop Culture icon wasn’t his favorite thing – but it was a means to an end – and Shaw used that popularity to further his concepts and ideas to a larger audience. It was easier for him to make the case for using a Harpsichord in a big-band context than it would have been for say, a Boyd Rayburn who didn’t have the clout or record sales.
But here we are, some 70 years after the heyday of the Big Band era and we tend to gloss over what many of these bands and bandleaders were all about and were trying – we have even forgotten just exactly who was who – tending to lump everyone together under the banner of nostalgia. But Shaw made a difference, and I am not entirely sure the world of Jazz would have taken the myriad directions it had later on, had it not been for the Artie Shaw’s of the world experimenting and shaping an already acknowledged Popular music form and taking it a few steps further into the future.
Just a theory – enjoy.