Thursday, July 21, 2011

Artie Shaw's pocket symphony

Brian Wilson has famously used the phrase "pocket symphony" to describe the Beach Boys classic recording "Good Vibrations." If what he means is that a lot of interesting themes are colliding in the space of three minutes as opposed to the more luxurious time span of a symphony, then here's a pocket symphony that was a big hit in 1940: "Frenesi" by Artie Shaw and his orchestra.

One of the premier band leaders and jazz clarinetists of the swing era, Shaw packed a little ballroom dancing, some classical elements and international flair and of course big band jazz into three perfect and infectious minutes. Like "Good Vibrations," when you dissect the song in your mind it's hard to believe so many music delights can occur in such a short time span. Shaw was an innovative musician and this, to me, is his masterpiece.

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