Over six weeks ago we warned you that Artie Shaw would be back in the business within two months, that he was going to make four sides for Victor at their Hollywood studies, and that his band was going to be completely different from anything he had used before. Now confirmation comes of all our predictions. A few days ago Artie Shaw recorded four sides for Victor at their Hollywood studies with a thirty-one piece band. In addition to the usual six brass, four sax, four rhythm, and Shaw, they added eight violins, three violas, two cellos, flute, oboe, bass clarinet and French horn. Victor says, "Despite the full combination, Shaw will remain (sie ! ! !) in the swing idiom. With the extra musicians, he plans to enhance his style with tone colors and effects, heretofore unattained."
Un-hunh--and what's Kostclanetz been trying to do with his forty-five piece orchestra for the past few years?--Shaw used to work of him, and it would seem to me that the boss man is still topside when it comes to color effects. Very few bands has surpassed the sort of thing Kostclanetz does on discs like "Swamp Fire," when it comes to sheer color effect. Shaw belongs in the publicity game, not music.
By the way, the Hotel Sherman claims that Shaw is opening there on April 1. Since this contract was signed before Shaw left upstage, it's possible that it is more wishful thinking. However, if he does put in an appearance, it's going to be interesting to see how the trade bears up after having Fats Waller, Gene Krupa, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Woody Herman--good bands all. Furthermore, such statements as this one of Shaw's bode ill from both swing and dancing viewpoints: "I will attempt to have a swing band playing at such, augmented by legitimate instruments playing legitimately." I'm afraid this is going to be an attempt and that's all.
"You can't get dance or swing rhythm from a band that is divided against itself --either one requires a unity that make History I's ditherings about Rome seem of ninth magnitude. Shaw may gain color --that Kostclanetz has already done-- from his new combo, but that's all. Neither good swing or good dance music comes from a French horn beeping legitimately and a clarinet screaming legitimately.
Records: Jan Savitt has been gaining extremely well these days, his latest being "Rose of the Rio Grande," an oldie done in much the same fashion as the Ellington rendition, meaning it to be a trombone concerto in this case for Al Leopold instead of Lawrence Brown. Very fine playing, although a few of Leopold's ideas are lifted from Browns solo . . . Bobby Byrn's band is coming along in great shape. The twenty year old refugee from Jimmy Dorsey's outfit is turning out a steady series of good tune expositions, "Busy as a Bee" being" being his newest. Decca released his "Easy Does It" last week, and although it wasn't as bouncy as the Tommy Dorsey version of the same, it was still good.
Woody Herman has continued to do good discs, "East Side Kick" being one of his best numbers done lately. Get a load of "Blue Prelude" with Wood's vocal chorus and then get the old Isham Jones version of the same, done for Decca when most of the Herman Herd were with Jones . . . One of Louis Armstrong's best numbers in a great while is "Poor Old Joe." Main reason is that it has the life and pep that the old Louis discs used to have and that none of them have had lately . . . Bing Crosby's "If I Knew Then," a swell commercial.
Apropos of the review last week of Toscanini's recording of the Beethoven Fifth, lest you think us presumptuous, here is a review from the Gramophone Record Shop in New York City, Mecca and Delphic Oracle for classical record buyers:
Toscanini's Beethoven is utterly unique! . . . ' So runs the advance note from Victor, and a truer statement never was written, for never have we heard a more disappointing reading of this symphony . . . Disappointing due to the fact there is less Beethoven and more of Toscanini than even this long-suffering work can stand . . . This latest unfolding of the Fifth is conceived along the lines of a popular Italian operatic overture.
"Individualiy by prima donna conductors can be carried too far and our remarks on the Mozart G Minor (as done by Toscanini) are applicable here: Excessive speed does not make for clarity; drive on the conductor's part can and does obscure many of the details. Of the two readings, Toscanini or Furtwaengler, we unhesitatingly recommend the latter, for, while its vigorously dramatic and vital treatment may shatter your ideas on the interpretation of the symphony (the conventional Weingartner rendition, nevertheless, Furtwaengler's musical integrity stands unquestioned, aside from the fact that the recording is superior to the new set."