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  • by James Langton

Recording the 'Unheard Artie Shaw'


The New York All-Star Big Band outside Peter Karl's Brooklyn studio during recording of 'The Unheard Artie Shaw' (l-r) Kevin Dorn, Jon-Erik Kellso, Mark Lopeman, Molly Ryan, Peter Karl, Dan Levinson, James Langton, Harvey Tibbs, Marc Phaneuf, Mark Shane, Matt Koza, Brian Pareschi, Mike Weatherly, Matt Musselman, Joe Boga, Jim Fryer.

If you've known me for a while, you'll be well aware of how much I admire Artie Shaw. My English swing orchestra, The Solid Senders, was created in 1999 as part of my Master's Degree studies to recreate the 1938-39 Shaw band. In that case, we were playing the Shaw classics and doing our best to sound exactly like the original.

In 1995, after the end of a run on Broadway in 'Hamlet' (starring Ralph Fiennes) I took the opportunity to fly out to the University of Arizona at Tucson, to spend two solid weeks poring over the original band scores of their Artie Shaw collection. I was surprised to discover how many 'unheard' scores were there, that is pieces which the band obviously played but for which no sound recording, either commercially released or transcribed aircheck exists. This began a long-held ambition to hear what these scores sounded like, to reanimate a part of the Shaw band's history which would likely remain lost unless a Shaw nut like me made it happen.

As it turned out, I was lucky enough to find another couple of Shaw nuts to aid and abet me. Clarinetist Dan Levinson is certainly a Shaw admirer. Perhaps it's too strong to describe him as a 'nut' - if he's a nut for anyone it would likely be Benny Goodman, but in truth Dan is a nut for the whole classic Jazz era and a fastidious perfectionist in all he does. However, Reinhard Scheer-Hennings definitely gets into the 'Shaw nut' category. For forty years, Reinhard has been loving Shaw's music and putting together an unrivaled collection of all-things Shaw. He, like me, was very excited at the prospect of hearing these arrangements, particularly things like 'How Deep Is The Ocean' which he's seen in many of the radio logs of Shaw performances, but for which no aircheck recording has survived. Reinhard - bless his heart! - said he would be an 'angel' for the project and help us to achieve our project goal.

So, on two steamy hot summer days, Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th August

2016, the New York All-Star Big Band convened at Peter Karl's Brooklyn studio on Douglass Street. The line up of the band was enlarged with a third trombone to match the Shaw line up of 1938/39.

The band's line-up for the recording was

James Langton (directing)

Clarinet Solo: Dan Levinson

Trumpets: Brian Pareschi, Jon-Erik Kellso, Joe Boga

Trombones: Jim Fryer, Harvey Tibbs, Matt Musselman

Saxophones: Marc Phaneuf, Matt Koza, Mark Lopeman, Dan Levinson

Piano: Mark Shane Guitar: Molly Ryan Bass: Mike Weatherly

Drums: Kevin Dorn

Vocals were by Molly Ryan and Moanin' Mary.

Having had the good fortune also to meet Human Numan, the genius behind SiriusXM's 40s Junction, it didn't take me long to connect the dots and decide that 40s Junction might be just the place to unveil a project of this sort. At this time, the broadcast date is the weekend of November 5th 2016. Watch this space!

The NYASBB in Peter Karl's Brooklyn studio, August 8th 2016.

Where are the drums? Behind you! Kevin Dorn, ready for action ....


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© 2021 James Langton. All music, recordings, text and images, unless otherwise stated.