Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Shaw, Clarence Gene

Shaw, Clarence Gene, trumpet (b. June 16, 1926, d. August 17, 1973, Los Angeles). One of the most obscure of all modern jazz musicians, Clarence Shaw played trombone and piano in his youth, but changed to trumpet after hearing the 1945 Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker recording of "Hot House". While studying music at the Detroit Institute of Music, he played around town including gigs with Lester Young, Lucky Thompson and Wardell Gray. In 1957, he joined the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop and recorded the albums East Coasting, Modern Jazz Symposium and Tijuana Moods with the bassist. During the Modern Jazz Symposium sessions, Mingus & Shaw had an argument which ended in Shaw being fired from the band. Thoroughly disgusted with the music scene, Shaw broke his trumpet into pieces and vowed never to play again. However, when Tijuana Moods was first issued in 1962, Mingus raved about Shaw in the notes and soon the jazz world was wondering what became of him. Shaw was found in Chicago and was persuaded to play again. He recorded 3 superb LPs for Chess and was profiled in Downbeat. He was an early supporter of Jack DeJohnette and he recorded the drummer's composition "Our Tune" on his first Chess LP, Breakout. A few years later, Shaw's plans for a music school fell apart, and soon after, he faded back into obscurity. His last known public appearance was with an organ combo in 1968. Apparently, his death was never reported in the press, and many of the musicians contacted by this writer were unsure whether Shaw was still alive. The death date above comes from a Wikipedia article with no citation given for the information.

Contributor: Thomas Cunniffe