Friday Favorites 9/3/2010

The Big Band Era lasted from the early 1930s until the late nineteen forties.   Since I was born in 1944 … it does sound like a long time ago, doesn’t it? … you wouldn’t expect I’d have such an attachment to the music.   But, as I’ve said before here, my mother had an intense love of music that she passed on to me, and her record rack was filled with three genres.   There were Broadway musicals, classical recordings … and Big Band recordings, in particular Swing music.    I remember specifically a Glenn Miller collection and Glen Gray’s The Sounds of the Great Bands, but here must have been more because I can name most big band hits from memory … and one stands out.

Artie Shaw was born in my home town of New Haven Connecticut.  Although he started out playing the saxophone, he switched to the clarinet at age sixteen and in the late 1930s became one of the top selling recording artists of the era.  In 1938, he was the first white bandleader to hire a black singer, Billie Holiday, with whom he toured the South, creating significant controversy that she eventually left the band.  Although he had great success with conventional dance music and became known as the King of the Clarinet (Benny Goodman not withstanding) , according to Wikipedia he preferred innovation to popularity, adding strings to his arrangements, experimenting with bebop, and forming “chamber jazz” groups that utilized such novel sounds as harpsichords or Afro-Cuban music.  He often complained about the “asinine” popular fare that bands were required to play night after night, so he likely wouldn’t approve of my choice of Friday Favorite.

Shaw recorded Begin the Beguine, from the Cole Porter musical Jubilee, in 1938 and it quickly became the most requested of his hits, even though it was the flip side of Indian Love Call, which the producer intended as the hit side.   Some suggest that its popularity contributed to his decision to leave the music business.   Begin the Beguine has an unusual form that has no verse and drives ahead without benefit of a distinct stanza or a clear-cut release that relieves the surging melody and is unusually long for a love song. Interestingly, Cole Porter wasn’t fond of it either, often referring to it as that love song.   I’m no musician but I disagree with both of them.  Have a listen and tell me what you think.

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One Comment on “Friday Favorites 9/3/2010”

  1. Judy Says:

    I was born in the late sixties, but love big band swing. Our collection is quite eclectic with everything from rock, opera, big band, contemporary christian…our girls can sing a number of Sinatra’s songs as well as Andrea Bocelli. Of course, all the current music of their own era too.

    Thanks for the fun read 🙂

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