“Straight no chaser. That was Artie Shaw.”


That’s right, Artie Shaw — you know, tattoo artist/writer Jonathan Shaw’s old man, although this Esquire piece on the son doesn’t even mention dad’s name.

Jonathan Shaw Explains His Old-School Obsession

As for me, I have nary a tattoo, but I own a box set of Artie Shaw’s recordings with his small group, The Gramercy Five: Six Star Treats – The Complete Commercially Released Recordings.

This 5-disc set from Jasmine Records, entitled “Six Star Treats” is perhaps the most essential box of jazz clarinet recordings available. Not only does it bring together, for the first time, all of the studio recordings of the various groups to work under the Gramercy 5 name, but it provides alternate takes and many live performances, including some tunes the group never recorded in the studio.

Shaw’s cantankerousness is the stuff of legend. Some persons took to it …

Pen Mightier Than Clarinet For Artie Shaw, by David Fantle and Tom Johnson (Modern Times Magazine)

… If that sounds like the phlegmatic raving of an embittered misanthrope, Shaw would’ve been the first to admit (albeit in a bellicose manner) that he never lost his maverick streak.

 … while others couldn’t help noticing a darker side.

Artie Shaw: Swing and Loathing, by David Gates (New York Times)

(Artie) Shaw said his father “had to be a selfish bastard” for leaving his family. One journalist who conducted a long series of interviews with Shaw echoed both the syntax and the judgment in speaking of the son: “Absolutely he’s got to be the most selfish man that ever lived. So you’ve got this enormously narcissistic man in a cocoon, who is quite happy. There’s no tragedy, I guess — other than for some of the women, and the two sons.”

Artie Shaw: Quest for Perfection is the BBC Four documentary, and clicking the video embedded above takes you to entire film. The interviews with Shaw were conducted just before he died. Although the overall quality certainly isn’t the best ever witnessed at YouTube, it suffices.

Now, back to the music.