Nightmare on an Open Thread

ByPamela Geller on February 26, 2016
11 Comments
Artie_Shaw_(Gottlieb_07771)

Tonight’s Friday night music open thread is from the genius of American clarinetists, composer and bandleader Artie Shaw — “King of the Clarinet.” “A specialist in nonspecialization…”

Nightmare, recorded in 1938, reflects the great American jazz age, while nothing today comes even remotely close to the originality, brilliance, shock and awe of the music of that time. Today’s musicians troll the toilet for inspiration.

April 2005 By Nat Hentoff
My Debt to Artie Shaw

If it hadn’t been for Artie Shaw, I might not be writing about jazz here (or any other place). When I was 11 years old, walking down a street in Boston, I heard music coming out of a record store that made me shout aloud in excited pleasure. I rushed in, demanding, “What is that?” Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare,” I was told. Before then, the only music that had affected me so viscerally was the passionate, mesmerizing, often-improvisatory singing of the hazan, the cantor in Orthodox synagogues on the High Holiday days. The hazan sounded at times as if he was arguing with God, and the depth of his witnessing to the human condition later connected me with black blues.

In the definitive Artie Shaw collection, Self Portrait (RCA Victor/Bluebird), Richard Sudhalter says “Nightmare” is “a keening, almost cantorial melody in A minor, as different musically from the theme songs of his bandleading colleagues as Shaw was different from them personally and temperamentally.” I think I remember Shaw himself saying that he based the piece on an actual cantorian theme. As he said in the Self Portrait set, “Certainly I can’t deny the influence of my Russian-Jewish-Austrian ancestry.”
Orrin Keepnews, the master orchestrater of reissues, is responsible for Self Portrait, for which Shaw made the selections from every band he ever led. He included airchecks, which he felt were truer to what he had in mind than studio recordings. Keepnews writes that when Shaw and Benny Goodman were rivals, “You had to make a choice…. You were either for Artie Shaw or Benny Goodman.” Back then, and even now, I get into arguments when I claim that while Goodman surely could swing and was a superb technician, Artie Shaw surpassed him in the range of his imagination and the exhilaration he conveyed of continually expecting more of himself and his horn.

As Matt Snyder once wrote of the clarinetist, “Shaw’s playing was on a consistently higher level linearly and harmonically [than Goodman’s]…. Of all the big band leaders, Shaw may have been the most musically gifted.” I was pleased to see in the New York Times obituary, written and archived long ago by the now late John S. Wilson, that clarinetist Barney Bigard, who brought a New Orleans sound to the Duke Ellington orchestra, regarded Shaw as the greatest clarinetist ever, and that alto saxophonist Phil Woods, who arrived after the swing era, models his clarinet playing on Shaw’s.

At 11, I was taking clarinet lessons assiduously from an alumnus of the Boston Symphony, but hearing what Shaw could say and sing on that instrument led me into the liberating sounds and rhythms of jazz. It was during the Depression, and working as an errand boy on a horse-drawn fruit wagon, I was able to buy 78s of Basie, Duke, Bessie Smith and Shaw at a cost of three for a dollar. Years later, when I was New York editor of Down Beat, Artie Shaw would call me from time to time to discuss not only my limitless deficiencies as a jazz critic but also all manner of things, from politics and literature to other things that came within his wide-ranging interests. As soon as he was on the line, I knew that for the next hour or so my role was to listen. It was hard to get a word or two in. (Interviewing Benny Goodman was different. Cautious, he would often deflect a question by asking, “What do you think?”)

What I admired about Shaw was that he exemplified what Ben Webster once told me when I was still in Boston: “If the rhythm section isn’t making it, go for yourself.” Artie Shaw refused to let himself be limited, even by success. When he first quit the music scene in 1939, walking off the bandstand at the Cafe Rouge of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, he said later: “I wanted to resign from the planet, not just music. It stopped being fun with success. Money got in the way. Everybody got greedy-including me. Fear set in. I got miserable when I became a commodity.” In 1954, at 43, he left for good and never again performed.

He turned to writing and an array of other interests because his curiosity about how much one could learn about learning never flagged. As he said in the notes to Self Portrait, “I’m not comfortable with categories, and I distrust most definitions. The word definition is based on the word finite, which would seem to indicate that once we’ve defined something, we don’t need to think about it anymore.”

On January 7, the National Endowment for the Arts declared Artie Shaw a Jazz Master. I sure would have liked to hear his acceptance speech. It wouldn’t have been humble. He knew his worth, and then some. In a 1978 Washington Post interview, he said: “I don’t care if I’m forgotten. I became a specialist in nonspecialization a long time ago. For instance, I’m an expert fly fisherman. And in 1962, I ranked fourth nationally in precision riflery. My music? Well, no point in false modesty about that. I was the best.”

Shaw died, at the age of 94, on December 30, but his music will continue to reverberate. I can’t forget him because he brought me into the music that has given me ceaseless reason to shout aloud in pleasure.

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  • EJO

    ISIS terrorist demands shop owner burst balloons – because they look like women’s breasts

    21:52, 18 Feb 2016 / Updated: 22:03, 18 Feb 2016

    By Sam Webb

    The bizarre incident took place in Raqqa, Syria, soon after Islamic State took the city as their ‘capital’
    ———-
    “A shopkeeper had a red balloon in the shape of a heart in his window. IS came in, screaming that this was a sin.

    “The shopkeeper said it was just a balloon. The IS man insisted that this was sin because the shape could also be seen as a woman’s breasts. The shopkeeper had to pop the balloon.”

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/isis-terrorist-demands-shop-owner-7394582

    • honeybee

      oy

    • Mahou Shoujo

      This is islam, stupid on steroids.

  • EJO

    This is really funny. Look at the photos of the “Flying Bum.”

    World’s largest aircraft is almost ready!

    Giant fin is attached to the ‘Flying Bum’ airship ahead of its first flight next month.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3464186/World-s-largest-aircraft-ready-Giant-fin-attached-Flying-Bum-airship-ahead-flight-month.html#ixzz41KvoGIwU

  • EJO

    Do you like our guys, and girls in uniform? Yeah. Me too.

    Here are some really good photos of our Sailors, and Marines all around the world having some fun in the sun.

    Enjoy!
    ———-
    Watch out for the sharks! Sailors leap from ships around the world during traditional US Navy ‘swim call’… while colleagues keep a wary eye for predators

    By Jake Polden For Mailonline

    Published: 08:18 EST, 25 February 2016 / Updated: 20:38 EST, 25 February 2016

    The world is a swimming pool for the US Navy, captured here enjoying some well-deserved down time in a series of incredible photographs.

    The spectacular snaps show sailors and marines partaking in a traditional activity known as a ‘swim call’ in a number of different oceans and warm waters around the world.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3463761/GERONIMO-Sailors-leap-ships-world-Navy-swim-call-colleagues-eye-sharks.html#ixzz41L4UDj9z

  • American

    Awesome. & Appropriate too, as most of your recent posts are the stuff of nightmares.
    Thank you and Love you.

  • EJO

    I just flew in from Cleveland. And boy are my arms tired.
    ———-

    So a Polar Bear walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender and says
    “Bartender, give me a … … … … … … … … … … beer.”

    The bartender says, “ok, but why the big pause?”

    The polar bear replies, waving “Oh, I was just born that way.”

    ———-
    A hillbilly is learning to drive. After some classroom instruction, he
    is given the wheel, and the instructor, riding shotgun, reminds him to
    obey all signs.

    As they merge onto a freeway, the hillbilly rolls down his window,
    sticks his head out, and goes “WaaaaaaaaaaHOOOOO!” And then he pulls out
    in front of a semi and almost gets the two of them run over.

    Shaking and ashen, his instructor tells him to pull over and berates him
    for disobeying the YIELD sign. “Didn’t you see that sign?!”

    “Well, shore! And I stuck my head out the window and yield at him, but he kept on comin’!”
    ———-
    A hillbilly moves to the big city and goes to the store to buy some
    groceries. He says to the man, “Ah’d like some maters and some taters.”

    The man looks at him funny and says, “You’re from West Virginia, aren’t you?”

    “Shore ’nuff, how’d you know?”

    “It’s your accent.”

    The hillbilly decides he doesn’t want to come off like a rube every time
    he opens his mouth and takes some diction lessons. Some time later, he
    goes to the store to get groceries and says to the man, “I would like
    some tomatoes and some potatoes, please.”

    The man looks at him funny and says, “You’re from West Virginia, aren’t you?”

    “Why yes I am, good fellow, how could you tell?”

    “This is a hardware store!”

    ———-
    A guy goes to a costume party wearing noting but a girl clinging to
    his back. He meets his friend there who asks him why he isn’t dressed
    up.

    “But I am! this is my costume!” says the guy.

    “What, you have no
    clothes on and a girl clinging to your back, what kind of a costumer is
    that?” his friend asked.

    “I’m a snail,” said the guy. “WHAT??????” his
    friend replied. “You have no clothes on and a girl on your back and you
    think you look like a snail?”

    “Well, you see, this is no ordinary girl,”
    says the guy.

    “This is Michelle.”

    EJO: Think about it.
    ———-

    A teacher is teaching a class and she sees that Johnny isn’t paying
    attention, so she asks him, “If there are three ducks sitting on a
    fence, and you shoot one, how many are left?” Johnny says, “None.” The
    teacher asks, “Why?” Johnny says, “Because the shot scared them all
    off.” The teacher says, “No, two, but I like how you’re thinking.”

    Johnny asks the teacher, “If you see three women walking out of an ice
    cream parlor, one is licking her ice cream, one is sucking her ice
    cream, and one is biting her ice cream, which one is married?” The
    teacher says, “The one sucking her ice cream.” Johnny says, “No, the one
    with the wedding ring, but I like how you’re thinking!”

    ———-
    A man called his child’s doctor, “Hello! My son just snatched my pen
    when I was writing and swallowed it. What should I do?” The doctor
    replied, “Until I can come over, write with another pen.”

    ———-
    A completely inebriated man was stumbling down the street with one foot
    on the curb and one foot in the gutter. A cop pulled up and said, “I’ve
    got to take you in pal. You’re obviously drunk.” The wasted man asked,
    “Officer, are ya absolutely sure I’m drunk?” “Yeah buddy, I’m sure,”
    said the cop, “Let’s go.” Breathing a sigh of relief, the wino said,
    “Thank goodness. I thought I was crippled.”

    ———-
    A drunk staggers out of a bar and lets go of a loud belch just as a
    couple are walking in the door. The man yells at the drunk, “How dare
    you belch before this woman!” The drunk says, “I’m sorry! I didn’t know
    she wanted to go first.”

    • Aleister Crowley

      Henny Youngman you are NOT!

    • Mahou Shoujo

      Ok for the forum, but don’t give up your day job.
      A bear walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a beer. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t give beer to bears in bars.”
      The bear replies, “If you don’t give me a beer, I’ll eat that lady over there.”
      The bartender says, “Go ahead.”
      So the bear eats the lady and asks for a beer. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t give beer to bears on drugs.”
      “What do mean,” asks the bear. “I’m not on drugs.”
      “Yes, you are, that was a bar bitch you ate.”

  • Fred

    Excellent choice, Ms. Geller

  • Aleister Crowley

    I agree with Nat. I always preferred Artie over Benny both were heavyweights. Similar to the way I prefer Tito Rodriguez over Tito Puente two Latin Jazz giants.