“These Foolish Things”
Composed by Eric Maschwitz (Holt Marvel), lyric; Jack Strachey and Harry Link, music. Arranged by Ray Conniff.
Recorded by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra on June 8, 1945 for RCA Victor in Hollywood.
Artie Shaw, clarinet, directing: Bernie Glow, first trumpet; Stan Fishelson, George Schwartz, Roy Eldridge, trumpets; Ollie Wilson, first trombone; Agostino Ischia (Gus Dixon), Bob Swift, Harry Rodgers, trombones; Lou Prisby, first alto saxophone; Rudy Tanza, alto saxophone; Jon Walton, Ralph Rosenlund, tenor saxophones; Chuck Gentry, baritone saxophone; Dodo Marmarosa, piano, Barney Kessel, guitar; Morris Rayman, bass: Lou Fromm, drums.
Artie Shaw returned to San Francisco with his Navy band on November 11, 1943. The many months of non-stop touring he and his band had done throughout 1943 in the battle zones of the Pacific Theater of war left him in extremely poor condition. The band had very often been in actual combat situations, albeit as non-combatants. Travel, food, and lodging had been haphazard. Explosions from bombs and artillery were a part of the Shaw band’s day-to-day existence during those months. Shaw lost the hearing in one ear as a result of such an explosion. He also absorbed the additional frustrations of trying to accomplish his mission, which was to bring live music to fighting men, while often being thwarted by middle-rank Navy officers who envied him and resented the attention that he, a mere enlisted man (he was a chief petty officer), was getting from music-starved GIs, and the top Navy brass. Shaw suffered what was then called a “nervous breakdown” (today called post-traumatic stress syndrome), while he was in the Pacific, but he continued to tour with his band. (Above left: Artie Shaw in the Navy – 1943.)
By the time he returned to San Francisco, he was in a “…malaise that had stricken him on Guadalcanal…His migraine headaches recurred, he felt deeply depressed, and he drifted into a near psychotic stupor.”(1) He was admitted to the Oak Knoll Navy Hospital just outside Oakland, California. Although he was allowed to leave the hospital around Christmas 1943, to visit his wife Betty Kern (daughter of composer Jerome Kern), and their tiny son Steven (1A) in Beverly Hills, he returned to Oak Knoll shortly thereafter, where he remained until he was given a medical discharge in March of 1944. He then commenced psychotherapy with Dr. May Romm in Beverly Hills. Shortly thereafter, he and Betty Kern were divorced. (At right: Betty Kern, Steven and Shaw – late 1943.)
For approximately the first six months of 1944, Shaw had absolutely no desire to reenter the music business. In addition to his physical and emotional problems, one large reason why he did not want to resume his career as a bandleader was that the continuing deadlock between the American Federation of Musicians (AFM, the musicians’ union), and the recording companies. That resulted in a prohibition that had kept all bands from recording since August 1,1942, and would prevent him from recording any band he might have wanted to put together. Although the AFM had come to an agreement with the Decca Records in September of 1943, and with upstart Capitol Records in October of 1943, Victor (for whom Shaw recorded), and Columbia continued to hold out until November of 1944. Their strategy (which enabled Capitol to grab substantial chunks of market-share), along with the lingering effects of the prewar ASCAP-network radio imbroglio, was undercutting the popularity of big dance bands by the day, not that any of the bandleaders then operating realized it. They were too busy appearing in movies, and touring the nation playing for audiences whose pockets were full of money, the result of the homefront wartime economic boom. Shaw, whose prewar recordings were still selling very well, had every reason to believe that whenever he was ready to resume operations, he would pick up where he left off in early 1942 with SRO audiences everywhere he appeared. So he bided his time and worked his way back to health.
He also met and eventually invited the young movie starlet Ava Gardner to live with him in his Tudor mansion, complete with swimming pool and tennis court, located at 906 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills (shown above). She readily accepted. In addition to being an incredibly beautiful woman, Ava was outgoing and fun to be with, and she loved jazz. She often came around the band, and far from being a distraction, she was, as Roy Eldridge told me in 1979: “a delight, an inspiration, a friend. I still see her now and then.” Her role in helping Shaw to regain his emotional health has been vastly underappreciated. (Below left: Ava Gardner and Artie Shaw – 1945.)
In the summer of 1944, knowledgeable people within the music business were predicting that the Union recording ban for Victor and Columbia would be over by around Halloween.(2) This, and a new one-year contract with Victor Records, impelled Shaw, now restless and in need of money, to assemble another band, starting probably in late October. He decided this band would not have strings. Forming a band always stimulated Shaw. He greatly enjoyed “casting” the various roles he knew would be important in any of his bands. He began carefully approaching various star trumpet players to fill the role of “sparkplug.” After having discussions with Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, and Dizzy Gillespie, he came to an agreement with Eldridge. As it turned out, Eldridge and the band fit together like hand-in-glove. The other jazz soloists Shaw hired were pianist Michael “Dodo” Marmarosa, guitarist Barney Kessel, tenor saxophonists Herbie Steward and Jon Walton, and trombonist Ray Conniff. The section players he chose were a mixture of youngsters and veterans. His road manager was Benny Goodman’s brother Freddy.
Shaw, like Benny Goodman, was always very picky about drummers. His ideal drummer was Dave Tough, who laid down a solid foundation, added coloration and intensity when and where appropriate, and otherwise stayed out of the way. For this band, Shaw hired the twenty-five year old drummer Lou Fromm. Fromm was experienced, having played with a number of top big bands prior to his stint with Shaw. He was also an excellent ensemble drummer, exactly what Shaw wanted. Unfortunately, he was also a heroin addict, something Shaw did not know when he hired Fromm. Fromm played splendidly for Shaw right from the start, was utterly punctual, and otherwise professional, and gave Shaw no difficulty. Eventually, Shaw did discover Fromm’s addiction. This, along with many other situations he would soon encounter, was new to Shaw. But he had long since come to terms with the sometimes addictive behavior of some of his fellow musicians and sidemen, as it related to alcohol and marijuana. His unvarying method of dealing with it was to talk with the musician involved, and explain that as long as he played well and behaved as a professional, Shaw would give him no grief. Shaw and Fromm had such a talk, and Fromm continued to play well and behave professionally throughout his association with Shaw, and had no problems with his very demanding leader. (3) L-R: Roy Eldridge, Morrie Rayman, Lou Fromm and Shaw – November 1944. This photo was a part of a photo shoot at Shaw’s Bedford Drive home.)
Before Shaw began gathering the musicians who would be in his band, he contacted the veteran trombonist/arranger Harry Rodgers, who had worked in his 1937-1939 band, and had spent most of the time since working for Harry James. Rodgers was a member of a small but extremely versatile group of swing era musicians (4) who could not only play in the band, but who could also copy out arrangements from an arranger’s score, alter or modify existing arrangements, or when necessary, write completely new arrangements. Shaw had Rodgers revise a number of his more popular arrangements from the 1940-1942 period which had been written to include substantial parts for string sections of varying sizes. These revised charts (and those of Shaw’s hit recordings) would be the core of this new band’s “book.”(At left: Harry Rodgers – November 1944. Behind him is Ray Conniff.)
All top swing bands had to constantly have new arrangements to keep their music fresh.Those arrangements usually fell into three categories: first, and of great importance to audiences, current pop tunes that were then being played on radio or in films; second, standards that had continuing popularity from year to year, including any top band’s recorded hits; and third, original compositions that were often jazz-oriented. The man Artie Shaw tapped to be the chief arranger for his new band in the autumn of 1944 was Ray Conniff. Artie had been greatly impressed by Conniff’s skill writing arrangements for his two pre-war string orchestras, in which Conniff also played trombone. Conniff spent 1942 and 1943 as a sideman with small jazz groups led by cornetist Bobby Hackett, and pianist Art Hodes. He also kept active during this time writing arrangements principally for Glen Gray’s big band. Conniff’s job with Shaw would be to make arrangements on standards, and to continue to provide more of the original compositions that had proved so successful in previous Shaw bands. In addition, he would play trombone in the new band, taking the solos that were called for on that instrument. (Shaw contracted with a number of other very talented arrangers to chart the current pop tunes. They included Dick Jones, Johnny Thompson, Harry Rodgers, Jean Stevenson, and George Schwartz, who also played trumpet in the band. Artie also contracted with jazz-based arrangers Jimmy Mundy and Buster Harding to provide a few jazz originals. (Shaw’s musical relationship with the avant-garde arranger Eddie Sauter in 1945 also resulted in some extraordinary music, including Sauter’s brilliant arrangement on George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which is posted elsewhere on this blog. A link to it is at the bottom of this post.)
But of greater importance, Conniff was now the arranger through whom Shaw would implement the new ideas he had for the sound of this band. Together they would create the sonic identity for Shaw’s new band. Artie had developed some very specific concepts as to how this new band was going to sound. He was completely aware of the rather rapid development that had occurred in trumpet technique during World War II. The accepted top range of the instrument had expanded significantly, as did the ability of trumpeters to cleanly articulate long strings of notes with great speed. Accordingly, Shaw chose young trumpet lions to support that old tiger Roy Eldridge in the trumpet section. (At right: Arranger/trombonist Ray Conniff with Shaw – 1944.)
But, as strong as this four-man trumpet section was, and it could blast when necessary, Shaw’s main interest was to add a new color to the trumpet section parts that would appear in many of the new arrangements he would commission for this band. He and Conniff settled upon often using the four trumpets fitted with Harmon mutes having the stems in the center of the mute cup removed. This device would appear in many of the arrangements that would be written by Conniff and others for and played by this band over its 13 or 14 months of life. But it is so subtly and musically employed that even a critical listener never has the feeling that it is obtruding on the music. Jazz trumpeters and arrangers became somewhat fixated with this sound for much of the next twenty years.
Shaw also resolved for the first time to employ four tenor trombones that would, in addition to laying down sumptuous background chords, be featured as a section. In this area, Conniff, a very fine trombonist himself, immediately grasped the musical possibilities. He began experimenting with various voicings for the four trombones, seeking the warm, sensuous sonority that Shaw told him he was after. The eventual result was one of the most opulent musical sounds to emerge from the big band era, that of a perfectly blended trombone quartet.(5) (At left: Shaw, vocalist Imogene Lynn and his trombone section – November 1944: L-R:Pat McNaughton, Harry Rodgers, Ray Conniff, Charles Coolidge. This photo was also taken at Shaw’s house.)
An ideal example of what Shaw and Conniff were after is the arrangement of “These Foolish Things,” which was recorded on June 8, 1945 in a flawless performance.
Gunther Schuller, whose monumental book The Swing Era – The Development of Jazz 1930-1945, was one of Shaw’s harshest critics. The mention of his name to Shaw after publication of The Swing Era in 1989 almost always caused a vitriolic explosion. Although Schuller was less than rigorous in his historical scholarship, I have found that his perception and lucid explanations of musical matters were often exemplary. Schuller totally failed to understand the close musical relationship and rapport between Shaw and Conniff, but he nevertheless completely understood the musical quality of Conniff’s arrangements for this Shaw band. “Conniff’s arrangements were characterized by a deep, rich orchestral sound, finely balanced, set in spicily chromatic harmonies and voicings, and above all by a structural clarity that consistently avoided congestion and permitted soloists and sections to develop a deep, spacious, laid-back swing. Moreover his arrangements revealed a keen sense of the need for a balanced variety. Conniff’s work was filled with surprises, and was rarely repetitious or redundant.”(6)
Although many of the arrangements Ray Conniff wrote for this band were recorded, a good many were not. Those coming into the Shaw book in the period from August through October, 1944 included: “Lament” (previously known as “Rabbi”/”Nostalgia”/”In a Low Down Mood”); “Stop Pushing” aka “The Hop”; “Lazy Blues”; “The Stomperoo”; “Kasbah” aka “Native War Dance”/”Tom Tom”; “Jumpin’ On the Merry-Go-Round” aka “Pickin’ a Chicken”; “Down Under” aka “Chandu”; “Good For Nothin’ Blues”; “Kangaroo” aka “Way Down Under”; “S’Wonderful”; “I’ll Never Be the Same”; “These Foolish Things”; “Yours Sincerely”; “Limehouse Blues”; and “Tabby the Cat.”
Unfortunately for fans of the music of Shaw’s 1944-1945 band, Ray Conniff was called into the military in early 1945, just as his musical partnership with Artie Shaw involving his current band was beginning to flower. They would never work together again.
On the tennis court at Shaw’s Beverly Hills home, November 1944. L-R back: Harry Rodgers, Ray Conniff, Tommy Mace, Pat McNaughton, Roy Eldridge, Charles Coolidge, Jimmy Pupa, Chuck Gentry, Ray Linn, Les Clarke,George Schwartz, Herbie Steward, Jon Walton, Morris Rayman; front: Dodo Marmarosa, Lou Fromm, Barney Kessel, Shaw.
In this performance, which evokes a feeling of longing just like the lyric for “These Foolish Things,” all of the singing is done by Artie Shaw and the members of his band, on their instruments. The young man who replaced Ray Conniff, Ollie Wilson, possessor of a lovely, silken sound on trombone and quicksilver technique, takes a romantic turn as he plays the 8-bar introduction Conniff composed, to begin this classic recording. Note the kaleidoscopic use of the sections of the band (including the saxophones and the Harmon-muted trumpets), behind Wilson’s open trombone solo. The shifting instrumental textures create a dreamy, introspective mood. Shaw follows, in the lower register of his clarinet, playing and gently embellishing the melody for eight bars. At first he is supported only by the rhythm, and then by the reeds, Harmon-muted trumpets, and the trombones, which are open and remain open throughout this performance. Shaw’s next eight bars are improvised and played at first with just the rhythm, and then against a chorded saxophone cushion. The reed quintet takes the bridge, with baritone saxophone master Chuck Gentry providing a sonorous voice at the bottom of the reeds, balanced at the top by lead alto player Lou Prisby. Tenor saxophonist Ralph Rosenlund plays a very warm half-chorus solo, at first with only the rhythm, and then against the open trombones. (See comments below.)
Artie Shaw recording – June 1945. L-R: Morrie Rayman, Ralph Rosenlund, Ollie Wilson, Shaw. (#)
The sumptuous-sounding trombone quartet playing the secondary (bridge) melody, beautifully harmonized under Ollie Wilson’s velvety lead, is heard next. Dodo Marmarosa sprinkles glistening piano notes on the trombones while they play, then the saxophones take the music into its next phase. Shaw returns to improvise, backed by the reeds. The final part of this performance, a cadenza, has Shaw improvising against a kaleidoscopic background of saxophones, open trombones and open trumpets.
This is a superb performance of a brilliant arrangement, spotting excellent solos, especially by Artie Shaw himself. It is also timeless music. Not a note has become dated in the seven-plus decades since it was recorded.
“These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” is one of the greatest ballads in the American Popular Music songbook. Nevertheless, it was not written by a great American songwriter or an American songwriting team. Indeed, it was not written by an American, though an alternate bridge, which has become standard, was composed by an American, Harry Link. The lyric of “These Foolish Things” came first. It was written by Englishman Eric Maschwitz, whose pen name was Holt Marvel. Maschwitz wrote all of the lyrics for the song’s verse and three choruses, in one sitting in London, probably in the autumn of 1935. Maschwitz said later that those words were inspired by actress Anna May Wong, with whom he had a relationship while he was in Hollywood shortly before. Maschwitz collaborated with another Englishman, Jack Strachey, on the evocative music, which fits the words perfectly. The song was copyrighted in 1936, but didn’t catch on immediately in America, despite good recordings of it by Benny Goodman and Helen Ward, and Teddy Wilson and Billie Holiday, both in 1936.
The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Notes and links:
(1) See Middle-Aged Man Without a Horn, by Robert Palmer, in The New Yorker, May 19, 1962, pages 47 et seq.
(1A) Steven Kern Shaw (June 30, 1943 – August 25, 2018) was Artie Shaw’s first son. Here is a link to an interesting article about Artie Shaw’s son and Jerome Kern’s grandson:
(2) The AFM recording ban ended for Victor Records in early November 1944. There has been some uncertainty about Shaw’s contractual relationship with RCA Victor during the recording ban. It is my informed speculation that he had no contract with Victor from early 1942 until he signed a new agreement with them on approximately August 1, 1944. It was quite common for even the biggest names in the music business to have contracts that were for a one-year term. Sometimes, options to extend those contracts were included in the one-year agreement, but these were exercisable by the company, not the artist.
(3) Unfortunately, after Lou Fromm’s tenure with Shaw (when very often his playing was under-recorded by Victor’s engineers), his behavior became more erratic, and desperate. He was arrested on a number of occasions for theft offenses, and suffered a number of hospitalizations and failed attempts at rehabilitation. After the late 1940s, he completely vanished from the jazz scene. The many attempts by journalists and historians since then to find him have been completely unsuccessful.
(4) Others in this exclusive fraternity included Freddie Stulce and Carmen Mastren, who worked for Tommy Dorsey; Al Avola, who had worked for Shaw and with a number of other leaders, including Tony Pastor. Musicians like Eddie Sauter, George Siravo, Fred Norman, Ray Conniff, Billy May, Nelson Riddle, and many others, who started out as instrument-playing sidemen who arranged on occasion, later became full-time arrangers.
(5) Prior to Shaw and Conniff working with a section of four tenor trombones, and featuring them as a section, both Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller had dabbled in this. Later, Stan Kenton and Pete Rugolo took this idea further. Rugolo’s lovely composition “Interlude” (written for the Kenton band) is one of many examples.
(6) The Swing Era – The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945, by Gunther Schuller, Oxford University Press (1989), page 711.
(#) Photo: Ralph Rosenlund.
Here are some links to other great performances by Artie Shaw in the 1944-1945 period:
And here is a post that focuses on Roy Eldridge, Shaw’s featured trumpet soloist in the 1944-1945 band:
Mike this article hits home for me because as a long time band manager for many years I had to live with the disasters created by talented but drug addicted musicians. This article is so intuitive and filled with such amazing detail that I would hope you would consider becoming a Professor of Jazz music and American Songbook history at the University of Colorado where the Glenn Miller Archive is located. Your insights into the incredible roster of talent and the complicated interaction that was required to produce the greatest popular music the world has ever or will ever experience and to condense that into a concise article is an amazing achievement. Thanks and looking forward to the next article.
A great article as always, Michael. I would just like to point out that Ralph Rosenlund is the tenor saxophone soloist on “These Foolish Things,” not Jon Walton. This according to interviews with Rosenlund in Portland, Oregon author Robert Dietsche’s book, “Jump Town: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz 1942-1957.”
Thanks for that nugget. Jon Walton also played in the robust tenor saxophone style of Ben Webster. It is interesting that Shaw would have assigned this solo to Rosenlund, who was really just subbing in the band instead of giving it to Walton, a regular member of the band. I wonder why that happened. Marvelous solo in any event!
Mike, thanks again for another great story and recording! I honestly don’t know where to start… The band: It’s hard to believe this was recorded almost 73 yrs ago. The playing by everyone (from Lou Prisby’s lead alto work to Artie himself) is off the charts. That goes without saying, but what truly amazes and makes me scratch my head at the same time is the QUALITY of the recording. Yes, I know this was done at a big name studio/label, but the balance of everything is…….perfect. The overall recording is such a pleasure to hear and so easy on the ears. I’ve been involved with recording sessions in big bands the last 20+ yrs and for some strange reason and with all of the “modern technology”, I have yet to hear a recording of a big band, again……in the last 20+ yrs that sounds anything even remotely close to this in terms of raw recording quality (balance, tonal perspective, mixing, etc). From a technical perspective, I’d love to know how many mics were typically used by RCA Victor, what type(s), placement, etc. I can guarantee you that more “area” type mics were used back then, as opposed to every instrument being individually mic’d today.
I’ve listened to this recording (and pretty much everything else Artie ever recorded) thousands of times and it never gets tiring!
Keep ’em coming, Mike!
John, thanks for those comments. I agree with your opinions regarding the technical deficiencies of most big band recordings made in the last 35 years. The problem, I think, is that the technicians responsible for capturing the sound have only the dimmest idea of how the music of a big band is supposed to sound. To compound this, whoever the producers are–sometimes they are the musicians themselves–they are afraid to tell the technicians what they want, which should be a natural sounding recording where all of the instruments can be heard, but in proper balance. In other words, there should not be recordings of sixteen musicians that sound like a continuous bass solo with distant accompaniment by fifteen other instruments.
The recording of “These Foolish Things” was made at RCA Victor’s Hollywood studio, which was located at 1016 N. Sycamore Avenue. From the mid-1930s until well into the 1940s, many great-sounding recordings were made in that studio under the supervision of Harry Myerson. Although I do not have a lot of information the about number and placement of microphones in that studio, I do have a photo of Shaw and some of his sidemen taken at their November 23, 1944 recording session, and they are gathered around an RCA 44 ribbon microphone playing their instruments. That is quite misleading, because there was usually a floor mic in front of the saxophones, and an overhead mic for the brass, plus a mic near the rhythm section. Drums and cymbals were often muffled by baffles. Each of these mics could be adjusted in the control room to increase or decrease the volume of the sound being recorded. In the vast majority of recordings of big bands made during the swing era, the overall balance of the band was set by placing and adjusting mics and musicians before any recording was done. Then the recordings, already in acceptable balance, were made. Very few adjustments in the volume were made while the recordings were actually being made. There was almost no post-recording adjustment made to the sound of the recordings prior to the advent of magnetic tape in the late 1940s. It seems incredibly simple, yet it worked amazingly well.
Victor’s Hollywood studio, and Decca’s 57th Street studio in Manhattan were the places where many beautiful sounding recordings, with a tiny amount of natural reverb, were made. Many people have praised Columbia’s Liederkranz Hall studio on 58th St. in New York. To me the recordings made in that space do sound great, with natural reverb coming from the room itself. But there is too often a somewhat off-mic (distant) quality to the recordings made there. Victor’s legendary 24th Street studio in Manhattan had a rather dead sound, completely devoid of any natural reverb, which many musicians described as “dry as dust.” But all of the music was recorded in very good balance in all of these recording spaces.
Having said all this, I must also say that every recording that I post on this blog has been digitally remastered by me. That does not mean that I simply do digital dubs of recordings, and then post them. More often than not, I will carefully listen to a number of different versions of the same recording so I can select the best-sounding one. Then I transfer that recording into the digital equipment I have. Then I start the process of remastering, which I have been working on perfecting for the last fifteen years. I will remove extraneous noise from the recording (hiss, pops, crackle, hum). I will adjust the balance of the instruments, with my ultimate objective always being to achieve a natural sound. Then I will work with equalizers to bring out the natural resonances of the instruments. Sometimes, I can get what I’m after in an hour or two, especially if I am working with a very good source recording. The version of “Let’s Walk” by Artie Shaw that is posted on this blog took me most of a year to achieve what you now can hear.
I could go on and on about the sound of these vintage recordings, and have probably gone on too long about it. I am very happy that folks are really hearing the good sound that is so important for the recordings posted on this blog.
P.S. Shaw knew how to rehearse a band and how to get the best out of his musicians when they recorded. It was not accidental. He and they worked very hard to achieve the superior results we often hear.
Great insight into the art and science of recording and mastering. Still you have to be talented and intuitive personally to recognize what those adjustments should be. We are lucky to have Mike Z reclaiming history for us all.
Excellent post Mike. Wonderful tune, outstanding band, great arrangement, and top-drawer recording.
I’m not sure how things had evolved sound-wise between ’40 and ’45. In ’40, Victor mixers took up to four mics–tall stands left and right, one down front for vocalist or leader /solo, and an overhead. By ’45 they were able to overdub if need be (as in Shaw’s “Summertime”). The Hollywood Victor studio on Sycamore was much larger than the Chicago and NYC studios with a livelier “bounce.”
Poor Lou Fromm. His death-knell in performing was his ’48 press quote that he played better high. At one point he was in a federal de-tox lockup for a year. The last mention I’ve been able to dig up was an arrest in I believe ’53, in NJ. He’d stolen a doctor’s bag with the attendant narcotics inside.
The drug epidemic has taken many greats along with cigarettes. Chet Baker comes to mind among many others and it ruined several bands and opportunities I was involved with. Why the media keeps glamorizing drug use I’ll never understand.
David, thanks for those insights. I agree with them, except for one point: my research has led me to the conclusion that Artie Shaw’s solo on his 1945 recording of “Summertime” was not overdubbed. If you click on the link above to the story behind Shaw’s recording of “Summertime,” you will be able to read about how I arrived at my conclusion.
Also, overdubbing in a number of crude forms, existed as early as the 1920s. Widespread overdubbing became possible because of the invention of magnetic tape, and use of it starting in the late 1940s. Shaw stated that he overdubbed some clarinet playing on a recording date while he was contracted to Musicraft in 1946. He evidently had had some dental work done and couldn’t play when the band recorded, so he returned later and overdubbed his clarinet parts. That is the only instance of overdubbing I know about involving Shaw.
Lou Fromm’s downward spiral was tragic. I would love to get more information on him. He was a very good drummer.
I remember liner notes from one of the LP reissues talking of a “Summertime” overdub. The clarinet is also captured in an odd acoustic dissimilar from the rest of the band. I think the notes mentioned that he felt a need to conduct that passage without soloing during the session, that there’s been problems? Good though to give it a fresh re-think.
Mike…. just read your account of the
doubled, written solo for “Summertime.” Now THAT’S interesting. Have you shared that with Reinhard Scheer-Hennings? I thought you might have, but I’ve never heard this bit of musical insight. Well done!
All I know about Fromm was that he was in the Teddy Powell and Charlie Barnet orchestras (before knowing about his time in Shaw’s orchestra). There are several videos of soundies, movie scenes, and recordings out on YouTube featuring his drumming.
Here is a small list I compiled up of his drumming:
Teddy Powell and His Orchestra, 1939-1942
“Ode to Spring”
Teddy Powell Soundie featuring:
“My Little Cousin”
“Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio”
“Sans Culottes” (Separate Video but from same soundie)
Teddy Powell Soundie
“My Little Cousin”
Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra, 1943
“Cherokee and Pow-Wow”
Mike and David…….EXCELLENT stuff! Thanks so much for the detailed and enlightening info!
David, for what it’s worth, I’m 99.999% confident that the Summertime excerpt was indeed 2 clarinets. Artie and who exactly, I don’t know. Would be interesting to see the original parts (if the UofA library has them) to see what’s actually written.
John….. Mike’s first-hand reporting of a latter-day performance of the score cinches it for me. At first blush, like most of us I figured it sounded like that awful duo-phonic fake stereo favored by Capitol for their reissues–something RCA was equally guilty of for the first few years of the 60s. But, that surely wasn’t the cause. I’d chalked it up to a booth overdub which fit the early reporting in the LP reissues. Now, knowing that it was a reedman doubling Artie’s scripted line–Sauter wrote a lot of scripted solos for many arrangements–it all makes sense, and explains the odd acoustic effect.
During Shaw’s 1941 recording of “Moonglow,” starting at 1:20, there are briefly 2 overlapping clarinet solos, both of which sound like Shaw. I have always assumed that one of the solos was played by someone in the saxophone section, but could this actually be an example of overdubbing?
Michael, “Moonglow” is yet another great Shaw recording. I know exactly the passage you are referring to. In the first chorus, the saxophonists are playing clarinets (one bass clarinet, three B-flat clarinets) behind Shaw’s melody exposition. They switch to their saxophones in the last 8 bars of that chorus, and then there is a brief upward transition where Les Robinson’s singing alto saxophone is clearly heard above the other saxophones. When Shaw on clarinet comes in at that point, his sound and Robinson’s alto sound briefly overlap creating the effect you have referred to. To my ears that is what happened. I do not think there was any overdubbing. Then, of course, the four saxophones play the brilliant soli passage, one of the greatest on any Shaw recording.
Mike Z, you’re correct. The area in question is the 4-5 measures (interlude) before the sax soli. Artie plays that upward glissando that kind of overlaps with the line that Les Robinson is playing on alto. No more, no less. Lastly, I agree…….that soli is truly one of the all-time gems!
Michael, I’ve repeatedly listened to the passage in question (over a 60 year time frame) and I’m pretty sure its 2 clarinets and not an alto sax and a clarinet. In any event, I agree with you that “Moonglow” is one of Shaw’s greatest recordings. The Moonglow album on RCA was one of the first records I ever bought and I played it over and over again until I completely wore it out.
This is great! I love to discuss these details. Here is some food for thought Michael.
The four saxophonists in the passages we are discussing, play the last eight bars of the first chorus, both in unison and harmonized. Then the transition begins into the second chorus saxophone soli, with Shaw’s clarinet leading the way. The sound we hear differently covers one bar. If it is a second clarinet we hear in that one bar space, that would have required one of the saxophonists to put down his saxophone, pick up his clarinet, and play very few (do I hear four) notes in that one bar space, then quickly put down his clarinet and pick up his saxophone again to play the 16 bar saxophone soli that is played with four saxophones. This is possible of course, but it is awkward and really achieves no particular musical effect. It is not something that I think either Shaw or arranger Lennie Hayton would have required.
These are just my musings. I could be wrong.
Mike, (and all you other expert gentlemen) many thanks for all the above comments, plus of course the splendid recording!
I’m overwhelmed by the fine details, and can’t add or improve! As a jazz/swing/vocals broadcaster of music from the Golden Age for 44 years now, and one of just two non-American recipients of the “Golden Bandstand Award” (joining icons like Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman among the 50-odd legends) I know a bit about many top artists, but not in such detail. Keep it going, Mike!
Mike, going back to the original article, let me give a nod to a contributor to the 44/45 band book that I missed in your list: George Siravo. George was responsible for at least a dozen or more charts, all beautifully constructed with singing lines for brass and reeds both. He’d been active in arranging since the early 30s (I think) and post-Shaw became a Columbia “house band” leader for several singers.
Shaw drew George Siravo away from Frank Sinatra’s radio show to be his go-to arranger after ray Conniff was drafted. Siravo later had a very successful career doing arrangements for top vocalists (including Sinatra, again). To hear what Siravo could do with a straight-ahead swinger, just click on the link above to “Let’s Walk.”
Mike, I remembered your post re: “Let’s Walk” from earlier. And, your rather wonderful improvement over the existing issue for Hep, good as that was. The fate of those Musicraft masters was nothing short of a tragedy. LW is among my top 10 Shaw sides–ever. I remember an old Everest LP of a handful of the Shaw Musicrafts, and this one popped out to my college-age ears back then. The band is the hottest incarnation of the 44-45 crew, save Roy’s absence. But, Ray Linn does a bang-up job, and for years there were fist-fights among Shaw enthusiasts (in lieu of good Musicraft discographical data) as to just who the trumpeter was. Ray brought his A-game that day!
Siravo died in Oregon back in ’80. I wonder if any of his children kept professional memorabilia from those glory days in the 40s and 50s?
David, one of the major reasons why people attributed the trumpet solo on “Let’s Walk” to Roy is that Artie himself stated repeatedly that it was Roy, not Ray. As a historian, Shaw was definitely not infallible (no one is). That is why we have to cross-check the many questionable assertions that have come down through the years as accepted wisdom, and try to get closer to the truth. And that is part of the reason why swingandbeyond.com exists. I am always delighted when knowledgeable people make comments here. They help us get closer to the truth.
You do yeoman’s work with this blog, Mike, and my hat is off to you. Lots of thinking and listening in the above thread of comments.
Yes, Artie could insistently mis-remember things–and we took him at his word (some boners regarding Paul Jordan come to mind). In the case of LW, Linn’s tone and phrasing resulted in a dead-on Roy impression, which didn’t help matters.
Session sheets for Musicraft proved elusive too, though that seems to have sorted itself out now. Eldridge had clearly blown his last notes in the Shaw band prior to this date.