Begin the Beguine

Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

May 23, 1910 – December 30, 2004

This performance featuring Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine” is an excerpt from the 1938 film short, “Artie Shaw and His Orchestra” prominently featuring saxophonist Tony Pastor Sr.

Born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky in New York City on May 23, 1910, Artie Shaw grew up in New Haven, Connecticut.

An introverted child his began playing saxophone as a young teen, switching to the clarinet and going on his first band tour at the age of sixteen.

After three years in Cleveland as the director and arranger of violinist Austin Wylie’s Orchestra beginning in 1926, he went on to join “Irving Aaronson’s Commanders.”

Artie Shaw first gained attention with his “Interlude in B-flat” at in New York’s Imperial Theater during a swing concert in 1935.

An innovator for his use of unusual big band instrumentation, at times performing accompanied only by a string quartet and rhythm section, he developed the earliest example of what would later be called third stream.

A serious musician Shaw valued experimentation over popular convention and in 1938
his became the first white band to employ a black female vocalist full-time when he hired Billie Holiday.

He was a prominent artist of the swig era who entertained the troops during the Second World War; with groups over the course of his career including such talented artists as drummers Buddy Rich, Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney, and Ray Conniff.

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