“Lady Day” (1944) Artie Shaw with Roy Eldridge/ (1987) Loren Schoenberg and His Jazz Orchestra

“Lady Day”

Composed and arranged by Jimmy Mundy.

Recorded by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra for Victor on November 23, 1944 in Hollywood.

Artie Shaw, clarinet, directing: Ray Linn, first trumpet: Jimmy Pupa, George Schwartz and Roy Eldridge, trumpets; Ray Conniff, first trombone; Pat McNaughton, Charles Coolidge and Harry Rodgers, trombones; Les Goldberg (Clarke), first alto saxophone; Tommy Mace, alto saxophone; Herbie Steward and Jon Walton, tenor saxophones; Chuck Gentry, baritone saxophone; Michael “Dodo” Marmarosa, piano; Barney Kessel, electric guitar; Morris Rayman, bass; Lou Fromm, drums.

The story:

Artie Shaw returned to the United States from his service in the U.S. Navy with his Navy band, The Rangers, on November 11, 1943. They disembarked from the Liberty Merchant ship on which they were transported at San Francisco. Most of the men were given leave for a couple of weeks, including the Thanksgiving holiday. Several others, including Shaw, required hospitalization. This took place at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital just outside Oakland, California.

 

“In December 1943 Shaw was let out of the hospital briefly to visit his wife, Elizabeth Kern (shown at left in 1944) and their infant son Steven in Beverly Hills. On December 10 he was interviewed there for a  Metronome (magazine) feature article in which he was named “Musician of the Year.” Shaw, in his Navy dress uniform, was photographed in a number of poses. The article described him as ‘thinner, ill-at ease, nervous and fidgety.'”(1) Shaw returned to the Oak Knoll Hospital where he remained until he received a medical discharge from the Navy in March of 1944. He later described himself when he reentered civilian life as being in “a state of dysfunction.” If he played the clarinet at all, I suspect that he simply practiced enough to keep his performance chops in shape. He did not actively seek work. It was at this time when he began psychoanalysis in an effort to recover from some of the various traumas he suffered while in the Navy.(2) (Above left: Artie Shaw whistles to get a reaction from his son Steven. Shaw said: “I can’t figure this guy out. If I whistle ‘Pony Boy’ he always breaks out into a big grin. But if I whistle something else, it gets no reaction. For him, there’s just one tune in the books.) (1)

The first glimpse of Shaw as a performer after his military service was an Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) Command Performance broadcast on June 10, 1944, on which he played a solo on his father-in-law Jerome Kern’s song “Long Ago and Far Away.” He did not appear again in public playing the clarinet until late September, when he again played on an AFRS broadcast, this time on the Jubilee program, with Count Basie on the 25th, and then again with Basie on September 30, on the AFRS Command Performance show.(3)

In the summer of 1944, Shaw and Elizabeth Kern were divorced. It was at this time that he met and began a relationship with Hollywood film starlet Ava Gardner.

Starting in mid-August 1944, Artie Shaw, who was then living in the Beverly Hills, California, began commissioning and receiving new arrangements for the big band he would soon be forming. Through August and September, Shaw worked with arranger/trombonist Ray Conniff to produce many new original jazz tunes and arrangements, and with arranger/trombonist Harry Rodgers to produce new arrangements on standard tunes, and to revise older popular arrangements from the books of earlier Shaw bands. Conniff was also commissioned to write new arrangements on the standards “S’Wonderful,” “These Foolish Things,” “I’ll Never Be the Same,” and “September Song.” The work of Conniff and Rodgers constituted the major part of the Shaw band’s book of arrangements as the band began operations. Both Conniff and Rodgers would become members of the new Shaw band. (Above left: Ray Conniff with Artie Shaw – late 1944.)

Shaw also sought out a few jazz originals from “outside” arrangers, meaning arrangers who were not a part of his band. Among these were: “Grand Slam,” written by Fred Norman; “Hard Tack,” “Big City Shout” and “Bedford Drive,” written by Buster Harding; and “Lady Day,” written by Jimmy Mundy. It appears that “Lady Day” is the only composition or arrangement among several submitted by Mundy for the book of arrangements used by the 1944-1945 Shaw band that was recorded.(4) (Jimmy Mundy is pictured at right 1945.)

Despite various reports in the contemporary media to the contrary, it appears that Shaw did not actually start hiring musicians for this new band until late October or early November of 1944.(4A) The band was fully organized and sufficiently rehearsed to undertake a two-week break-in tour of west coast ballrooms, beginning in mid-November. They made their first Victor recording session on November 23-24, 1944, then headed east. They began a tour of theaters in the Midwest (5), eventually arriving at the Strand Theater in Manhattan, where they opened what would be a five-weeks stay at that venue on January 26, 1945. That engagement ended on March 1. They then worked their way back to Los Angeles and took a vacation of unspecified length.

The music:

The first thing that one notices when listening to the introduction for “Lady Day” written by Jimmy Mundy is the muscularity of the Shaw band. This ensemble included four trumpets, four trombones and five saxophones, in addition to the standard swing era four person rhythm section, and Shaw’s clarinet. This band could and did blast when necessary. Of course, there was much more to this ensemble than blasting, as we hear in the dynamically contrasting vamp played by the saxophones and rhythm section, which is the second half of the introduction, and what follows.

Trumpeter Roy Eldridge steps forward with the main melody “A” (which is based on the chords of “Blue Skies”) (6),  played with a cup mute in his trumpet’s bell. Like many giants of jazz, Eldridge had a very personal sound, which he uses here with great rhythmic verve. Roy’s melody paraphrase bristles. The saxophones then play the secondary bridge melody “B.” Eldridge returns to finish the chorus for the last eight bars (melody “A”) of chorus one. (Notice how Mundy continued the same vamping background used in intro throughout Eldridge’s solo.) (Below right: Roy Eldridge and Artie Shaw in 1945.)

A transitional passage which is led by the scintillating brass (first trumpeter Ray Linn’s playing throughout this performance is superb) leads to the second chorus, which is a showcase for Artie Shaw’s inspired clarinet improvisation. Arranger Mundy provides a supple cushion of saxophone sounds as backgrounds for Shaw to play against through the chorus, with a few bursts of brass along the way for contrast. Shaw’s playing here is particularly compositional: his solo is logically constructed with a distinct beginning, middle and end.

The final chorus is a setting for the entire ensemble to shine (hear the brass glissandi), with Maestro Shaw providing trenchant clarinet interjections. The interplay between the saxophones, trombones and trumpets through this sequence is brilliantly performed, and exciting. This band, like all Shaw bands, was superbly rehearsed and disciplined. The roaring ensemble drops away and Shaw plays a brief clarinet solo as preparation for the ensemble, which returns in ascending fashion to a forte finale.

This is a masterful performance of a great arrangement/composition by an inspired and swinging ensemble, and it includes great solos by two equally inspired jazz virtuosos.

***************

“Lady Day”

Composed and arranged by Jimmy Mundy; arrangement provided by Artie Shaw.(*)

Recorded by Loren Schoenberg and His Jazz Orchestra for Musicmasters on February 12 or 17, 1987 in New York.

Loren Schoenberg, tenor saxophone, directing: Burt Collins, first trumpet; Laurie Frink, John Eckert, and Dick Sudhalter, trumpets; Matt Finders, Eddie Bert and Bobby Pring, trombones; Chuck Wilson, first alto saxophone; Jack Stuckey, alto saxophone; Doug Lawrence, tenor saxophone; Ken Peplowski, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Danny Bank, baritone saxophone; Dick Katz, piano; Chris Flory, guitar; Phil Flanigan, bass; Mel Lewis, drums.

(*) The arrangement heard in this performance is the Jimmy Mundy score that Artie Shaw used and recorded in 1945. A few modifications were made to it however. The largest of which is the inclusion of Shaw’s iconic clarinet solo, voiced for the Schoenberg band’s reed section by Mark Lopeman, with clarinetist Ken Peplowski playing the lead.

The story continues:

Loren Schoenberg, born July 23, 1958, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, is a talented tenor saxophonist, conductor, educator, jazz historian and pianist, who in addition to having a career as a jazz musician, has written extensively on jazz, and since 2002 has been a guiding light at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. He has won two Grammy Awards for Best Album Notes.(6A)  In the late 1970s he played professionally with alumni of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands. In 1980 he formed his own big band, which in 1985 became the last Benny Goodman orchestra. (Above left: Loren Schoenberg.)

As a jazz historian and writer, Loren has contributed a great deal to the knowledge we have about the swing era. He was personally acquainted with many of the musicians who through their work, were progenitors of what is now known as jazz and swing. Among these musicians were Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, and many other members of Goodman’s various bands; Eddie Durham, Buck Clayton and many other members of Count Basie’s bands; Benny Carter; and various members of Duke Ellington’s bands.

For those who want to know more about Loren Schoenberg, I have written a profile of him that was published several years ago in the Journal of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC). A link to it can be found at endnote (7) below.

In the liner notes for the Musicmasters CD from which I took Loren Schoenberg’s performance of the Artie Shaw/Jimmy Mundy classic “Lady Day,” Dan Morgenstern, the doyen of jazz historians, wrote this about Loren’s band of the late 1980s: “The band is a unique blend of outstanding veterans (including Mel Lewis, one of the all-time great drummers, who takes time out from leading his own fine band), and talented younger players. Each section reflects this diversity, and thus an essence of the jazz tradition as a living thing – something that can’t be passed on through records, scores and books, but only in close intergenerational collaboration. This sense of jazz as a living tradition is also reflected in the Schoenberg band’s library, which now numbers some 300 arrangements of extraordinary scope and quality. In assembling this treasure trove, the leader’s deep knowledge of jazz history has stood him in good stead…” Regarding how this band approached performance, Mr. Morgenstern observed: “There is no trace of musical antiquarianism in this band’s approach, due to several factors, among them that the veteran members grew up with and played much of this music, while the younger ones have a deep love and respect for it. (There is also) …a direct link to the past: the Schoenberg band, almost intact, was employed by Benny Goodman for what turned out to be his last go-round as a bandleader.”(8)

The music:

The Schoenberg recording of “Lady Day,” made some forty-two years after the original, is an excellent example of breathing new life into a timeless classic. This performance has a validity all its own. The entire ensemble plays very well throughout the Mundy arrangement. Many aspects of this performance merit kudos. First and foremost, Loren’s inspired leadership of the band is a major positive factor. In addition, there is his full chorus tenor saxophone improvisation, which is excellent. The cup-muted trumpet solo we hear in the first chorus was played by John Eckert. The guitar bursts toward the end of the performance were played by Chris Flory. The reed soli, which is a new feature, is led with verve by clarinetist Ken Peplowski. Throughout the performance we hear the commanding first trumpet played by Burt Collins, the singing first alto saxophone played by Chuck Wilson, and the booting drums, played by Mel Lewis. (Above left: Mel Lewis in the 1980s.)

The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes and links:

(1) See Metronome January 1944, 8-13.

(2) One of the traumas Shaw suffered in the Navy that he could not deal with through psychoanalysis was the loss of hearing he sustained in one ear when an artillery piece was fired when he was standing nearby. That loss of hearing was permanent.

(3) Information about Shaw’s appearances as a performer during the first nine months of 1944 comes from: Artie Shaw a Musical Biography and Discography, by Vladimir Simosko (2000), 105.

(4) Other original Mundy composition/arrangements in the Shaw band book: “Ballyhoo,” “Cool Breeze,” “Jumperoo” and “Stop and Fetch It.” “Jumperoo” is not to be confused with the original composition/arrangement Ray Conniff wrote for this Shaw band called “Stomperoo.”

(4A) In addition to Ray Conniff and Harry Rodgers, who worked with Shaw on arrangements starting in mid-August 1944, then became members of the new Shaw band, Artie signed a one-year contract with Roy Eldridge in late September 1944 to be the new band’s featured trumpet soloist. The band was organized after that, starting in late October.

(5) The tour, which began around December 1, 1944, started with a week at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, followed by a week at the Chicago Theater, then a split-week: first at the Palace Theater in Akron, Ohio, then at the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio; then a week at the Palace Theater on Playhouse Square in Cleveland, followed by a week at the Downtown Theater in Detroit. They then traveled to Manhattan for the January 9, 1945 Victor recording date. Right after that, they played a week at the RKO Theater in Boston, and then a week at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia. On January 26, they commenced the Strand Theater engagement in Manhattan, which lasted until March 1. (This information comes from Artie Shaw a Musical Biography and Discography, by Vladimir Simosko (2000), 105-106.

(6) In the summer of 1945, Shaw commissioned an arrangement on “Blue Skies” itself. Perhaps he wanted the familiar melody of “Blue Skies” presented more literally to audiences than in was in “Lady Day.” It has been suggested that this arrangement was written by David Rose. My opinion is that it is unlikely that David Rose wrote that chart.

(6A) The liner notes for which Loren Schoenberg won Grammys are: shared with Dan Morgenstern: Louis Armstrong –  Portrait of the Artist as Young Man; and for the set of Woody Herman’s Columbia recordings issued on the Mosaic label.

Here are links to other great performances by Artie Shaw’s 1945 band:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/02/24/these-foolish-things-1945-artie-shaw/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2021/09/13/september-song-1945-artie-shaw-ray-conniff-and-1960-ella-fitzgerald/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/10/11/reads-and-re-reads-the-protean-mr-gershwin/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/01/10/lets-walk-1945-artie-shaw/

And here are links to some recordings by the 1945 edition of Artie Shaw and His Gramercy Five, with a great Eldridge performance with Gene Krupa thrown in also:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/08/28/the-grabtown-grapple-1945-artie-shaw-and-his-gramercy-five/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/01/06/little-jazz-trumpet-titan-roy-eldridge-rockin-chair-1941-with-gene-krupa-scuttlebutt-1945-with-artie-shaw/

(7) Here is a link to the profile I wrote of Loren Schoenberg in 2016: IAJRC Journal – Spring 2016 (Loren Schoenberg Article)

Mr. Schoenberg’s recollections of interacting and working with Benny Goodman in the 1980s are priceless, as are the unique photographs taken by the late Ed Berger of Benny rehearsing Loren’s band in 1985.

(8) Liner notes for the Musicmaster CD Time Waits for No One (1987), by Dan Morgenstern.

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11 Comments

  1. It’s always a real treat to find a new SWING AND BEYOND piece on a record from the ’44-’45 Shaw orch, my favorite edition. All throughout Artie’s bandleading career, his various aggregations projected a mood that was so different from what we hear from other orchestras. While it’s of course true that each band had a unique sound, I’ve always felt that, among those that I really love, it was the Ellington, Norvo and Shaw orchestras that were truly “beyond category,” to borrow from Duke himself; these bands just didn’t quite fit in with their contemporaries — and that’s what made them so special. Shaw’s musical vision always seems to have been darker, more melancholy than those of other heavy hitters, such as Goodman, TD, Basie, James — and, in my opinion, Artie’s post-Navy band was his most somber of all. This outfit came into being at the time in which film noir was firmly establishing itself in the cinematic world. I have to believe that the Shaw band could have produced an extraordinary soundtrack. … Of course, that’s not how things were done in Hollywood in those days. Surely, though, this crew could at least have appeared in a nightclub scene — miming “Lady Day,” which, with its Berlin-derived descending movement through the vi chord and alternation between gloomy minor and sunny major, sounds very femme fatale-ish. Artie, incidentally, was married to three actresses who appeared in excellent noir films: Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS; Doris Dowling in THE BLUE DAHLIA and Evelyn Keyes in THE PROWLER.

    Despite his diminutive physical stature, Little Jazz was a giant. He created some of what I consider to be his best work with Artie’s band. On “Lady Day,” he’s fiery, as we know him elsewhere — Henderson; Teddy Hill; Krupa; his own bands — but also extremely lyrical. Following a tough act, the leader, too, achieves these expressive opposites in his own highly personal way. Artie’s solo swings like mad and yet, too, is very nuanced.

    It’s true that the Shaw band of this time had plenty of power, with eight brass and the heftiness of Chuck Gentry’s bari sax, but, despite the weight of the horns, I’ve always felt that, overall, the orchestra had a rather lithe sound — thanks to the nimble rhythm section. Dodo Marmarosa is easily in my Top Three for piano; he was the ideal choice for this particular Shaw crew — as was Lou Fromm. Buddy Rich, perfect for Artie’s ’38-’39 book, would have been all wrong for the ’44-’45 charts. Lou was the right man for the job.

    I had not heard the Loren Schoenberg take on this classic before! I think the decision to tinker a bit with the Mundy chart was a wise one. I especially like the leader’s swinging turn and the reed section’s take on the original Shaw solo.

    • It’s extraordinary that you should mention Shaw, and noir in the same subject, because that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking, although my knowledge about Artie’s 44-45 orchestra is limited- put simply, I’ve had his earlier 40-42 sides on a continuous loop this week, driving to and from work in the winter frost and darkness, with those wonderful recordings as a warm accompaniment to the journeys. Time and again, I’m struck by what a superb Hollywood soundtrack that orchestra could have made, particularly with numbers like “Dusk”, “Suite no.8” and “I ask the Stars”, to name but three which spring immediately to mind; their chiaroscuro moods conjuring so much vivid imagery of femmes fatales through bedroom doorways, shadows, and nocturnal cigarette smoke in brownstone stairwells. Listening to some of the mature Shaw’s orchestrations can be like listening to an Edward Hopper painting, and, quite apart from the musical brilliance, it’s that intense imagery, as well as the inherent darkness in so much of his work which, I now realize, draws me in so deeply.

      • Beautiful observations! I’m glad to find that I’m not alone in linking Artie’s music with film noir. Even some of his orchestra’s earliest sides have an unsettling quality about them, an undercurrent, and the middle-of-the-night atmosphere in his work seems to me to have grown denser with each successive edition of the band. Your examples from ’40-’42, big favourites of mine, are most illustrative of this trend. … And Artie’s music has ALWAYS evoked for me the solitariness in Hopper’s city scenes! — as well as the loneliness and disquiet in Cornell Woolrich’s writing. If you haven’t heard the ’45 Shaw “September Song” yet, I would heartily recommend it — Mike wrote a wonderful piece on it here.

  2. I don’t view the mid-40s Shaw recorded output, when taken as a whole, as being overall somber. There are more records like “‘S Wonderful” and “Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the Positive” than there are like “Summertime,” and “Lament.” And certainly, Shaw’s earlier bands produced “noir-ish” records as well, such as “Nightmare,” “I Surrender Dear,” “Gloomy Sunday,” and “I Cover the Waterfront.” Also, film noir influence on the big bands was not limited to Artie Shaw. Remember that “Laura” was Woody Herman’s very first recording for Columbia. And perhaps the influence went the other way as well. After all, Stan Kenton’s song “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine” was sung by Lauren Bacall in “The Big Sleep!” Although I don’t find Artie Shaw’s recorded output of the mid-40s (and I am also including the Musicraft records) to be overall somber or morose, I do hear a change in his tone from pre-war records that, to my ears, seems more strident, as if expressing some inner anguish, perhaps caused by his ongoing emotional, physical and marital problems.

    • Well, each of us has his/her own impressions. I didn’t say that every record Artie cut in this period was “somber” in tone — and I did acknowledge that many of his earlier sides also had a noir atmosphere. I merely indicated that, for me, the melancholy quality that ran through Artie’s work is most palpable or at its zenith in the Roy and Dodo band. Too, I realise that a noirish sound was creeping into the output of other bands of the period. Woody’s “Laura,” which you mention, is my favourite version. As to the Kenton hit, “And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine,” it’s not surprising to me that WB picked up on the tune, although the music in films of that era was always at least a little behind the times. There are many small group sides, from a number of artists, in this period that display a noir sensibility but, among the big bands, the Shaw orchestra always stands out to me as being the most emotionally in tune with, or evocative of, that cinematic mood. I can’t think of another big band that would be even in close competition. … It seems to me, too, that even Artie’s rather jubilant-sounding sides — “‘S Wonderful”; “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”; “Jumpin’ on the Merry-Go-Round”; Bedford Drive”; “Just Floating Along” — suggest the film noir environment: the nightclub scenes and happy times … before things go awry.

  3. I neglected to mention what may be the ultimate “noir-ish” big band record of all time, Benny Carter’s “Malibu.” An honorable mention would go to Ray Noble’s “Harlem Nocturne” record.

    • Both “Malibu” and “Harlem Nocturne” are, IMO, key examples of “Big Band Noir,” we might call it — but, this being a subjective environment, I think it would be difficult to get all interested to agree on an “ultimate.” … I could add to the list Charlie Barnet’s “Dark Bayou” and Harry James’ “Vine Street Blues.” … I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Basie’s “Easy Does It,” of the, let’s say, “Proto-Noir” period of STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR, has the proper atmosphere, suggesting a rainy, late-night drive through the impersonal metropolis. … Minor chords aren’t mandatory.

      Still, for me, it’s the ’44-’45 Shaw band that most fully evokes the mood. … And in mentioning Artie’s noir actress wives, how could I have forgotten Lana in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE?

  4. Great discussion. Many perceptive and well-informed observations.

    I have posted the story and music of both Benny Carter’s “Malibu,” and Ray Noble’s “Harlem Nocturne” here at swingandbeyond.com.

  5. Just coming in on the tail of this, there are some beautiful examples of evocative “noir” here. I recall when I was no older than about 8, “Harlem Nocturne” being used as the opening theme of a gritty Brit TV drama series, and its sound and mood grabbed my attention even at that early age. Maybe I was born with this music in me?
    “Malibu” likewise is right on the money, and CB’s “Dark Bayou”, suffused with its own Ellingtonia, really works for me, too.
    Can I just chip in a couple to the pot?
    Johnny Hodges’ “Day Dream” (the original) could so easily be the leitmotif for a femme fatale. Its pure, dark sensuality exerts a draw, it perhaps would be unwise to go along with, whilst the second choice, Ellington’s neglected “Way Low” from ’39 is perhaps, right at the opposite end of the Noir scale- bleak, deserted, a place of deep night and empty streets, the recurrent theme being that of a train whistle. A lone figure on a platform watching the tail lamp of a night train disappearing from view. Perhaps losing his dreams in it’s wake…
    This music is so visual. Not only that, it digs into our souls, too.

    • Great ones, Mark! — and, yes, as the sides spin, we can see in our minds those tableaux noirs. In the film TENSION, femme fatale Audrey Totter, a regular in noir, has a theme played by an alto sax — if only they’d had Hodges on hand! … Alright, another one — Lips Page’s “Dance of the Tambourine,” with its slightly seedy nightspot, where one encounters femmes fatales with higher ambitions … or bribes waiters for information … or simply gets hammered to forget.

  6. Speaking of film noir themes played on a soulful saxophone, one of the best examples is Ronnie Lang playing John Barry’s Main Title Theme from “Body Heat.” Another great example is the Guy Noir theme from Prairie Home Companion.

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