Artie Shaw: The Chaser
Artie Shaw (clarinet)
The Last Recordings (Music Masters 65071-2)
Composed by Artie Shaw.
Recorded: New York City, February-March 1954
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
Shaw was a conflicted, restless perfectionist who did not equate fame and fortune with artistic achievement, but often sought public approval even if it meant compromises he'd rather not make. It's likely that Shaw felt that his brilliant last series of recordings in 1954 were as close as he'd ever come to perfection, and therefore chose to stop playing for good the following year. The tracks were recorded in New York with the newest incarnation of his Gramercy Five--actually a sextet. They were cut in the early morning hours after the band's regular gig at The Embers, and have a cohesive, polished chamber group sound while at the same time swinging with a fresh, uncluttered creativity.
"The Chaser" is an inspiring vehicle for some inventive soloing and group interaction. Shaw's insistently swirling phrases launch the piece, which quickly lead to the "I Got Rhythm" changes of the swing-era style, lighthearted theme. Jones' solo is emblematic of the tart and tidy efforts he continues to produce some 55 years later. Farlow's dense, boppish improv is repeatedly jump-started by jabbing background riffs from the band. Shaw follows with his uniquely piercing tone and seemingly effortless execution of intricate extended passages. Group riffs also support Roland's attractively rhythmic, effervescent solo, and also Potter's compelling, well-recorded statement. Shaw and the exuberant Kruger then engage one another in a discourse blessed with laudable continuity and agile responsiveness. Potter, Shaw, and Roland all get second go-rounds before the theme's spirited reappearance.
Reviewer: Scott Albin