Biography of clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw, one of the principal figures of the big band/jazz era of the late 1930s and 1940s. He discusses his constant need to seek new challenges, which led to numerous retirements and career changes including his foray into writing, which had long been his primary intention. He speaks about his difficulty in reconciling his fans' popular expectations with his personal, more esoteric musical ambitions. His many years of retreat from public life are also discussed, as well as his notorious series of unsuccessful marriages. Written by
Artie Shaw's legacy, his music, is the prime focus of this affectionate documentary. It's an impressive legacy by one of the true kings of Swing - a string of dynamic recordings that could not have come about without a strong personality at the helm. The various dramas, romantic and otherwise, in his life are mentioned in this film but not dwelt upon. But Berman's coup is engaging the services of the man himself, 75 and sharp as a tack, for some truly brilliant interview material. As a clarinetist, Shaw's inventiveness was undeniably the stuff of genius. In one unforgettable segment in this film, Artie puts stylus to vinyl and we watch him as he listens to his own 1937 recording of "The Blues", a live recording with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra which saw Artie faultlessly ad lib his way through a piece he hadn't had the opportunity to rehearse. Almost 50 years later he knows every note he played. This is a great piece of film-making which is crying out for a DVD release.
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