As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare."
Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Caroline Shaw’s Orange, performed by Attacca Quartet, is out now on New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records. Orange, which features six of Shaw’s pieces for string quartet, is the first full-length album to exclusively feature works by Shaw. It is also the first release in a new partnership between the two record labels, established with the goal of enabling contemporary American composers to realize creative ambitions that might not otherwise be achievable. "Completely gorgeous in so many ways," exclaims BBC Radio 3. "It hits you everywhere, all at once." "A love letter to the string quartet," says NPR. "[W]hen you hear all the imaginative sounds on Orange, you know you're listening to the voice of a strong composer." "[T]he pieces on Orange shoot off in thrilling and unpredictable directions," says Pitchfork's 8.0 review. "The music of Orange exudes joy and a sense of wildness."
The Sandie Shaw Supplement was a television show hosted by the British singer Sandie Shaw in 1968; and also the name of her fourth original album released in November of that year by Pye Records, and re-issued shortly afterwards on the Marble Arch label. The TV show included Shaw singing the songs from the album. Most of the shows have since been erased by the BBC, after Shaw asked for them to put the film on videotape. Only two episodes (episodes 2 & 3) have survived, after being returned to the BBC from overseas in the early 1990s. Episode 2 was shown on BBC2 shortly after being recovered. The audio tracks to some episodes have survived and pirate versions can sometimes be found on the internet but are generally hard to find.
One of jazz's finest clarinetists, Artie Shaw never seemed fully satisfied with his musical life, constantly breaking up successful bands and running away from success. While Count Basie and Duke Ellington were satisfied to lead just one orchestra during the swing era, and Benny Goodman (due to illness) had two, Shaw led five, all of them distinctive and memorable.
Coming off his Grammy-nominated 2013 album, The World According to Andy Bey, vocalist/pianist Andy Bey delivers the equally compelling 2014 release Pages from an Imaginary Life. As with its predecessor, Pages finds the jazz iconoclast returning to his roots with a set of American Popular Song standards done in a ruminative, stripped-down style. This is Bey, alone at the piano, delving deeply into the harmony, melody, and lyrics of each song. But don't let the spare setting fool you. Bey is a master of interpretation. In his seventies at the time of recording, and having performed over the years in a variety of settings from leading his own swinging vocal trio, to working with hard bop pioneer Horace Silver, to exploring the avant-garde with Archie Shepp, Bey has aged into a jazz oracle who doesn't so much perform songs as conjure them from somewhere in the mystical ether of his psyche.