Opening night of the 13th Boston Globe Jazz Festival featured the return of one of the most newsworthy figures in the music’s history. The new Artie Shaw Orchestra, under the direction of Dick Johnson, made its Boston debut at the Imperial Ballroom of the Park Plaza Hotel. About 1,500 dancers, nostalgists, and the just plain curious turned out for it.
Shaw himself was on a Boston bandstand for the first time since 1953 to emcee and conduct while Johnson played his parts on “’S Wonderful,” “Back Bay Shuffle,” “Stardust,” and more. “We recorded “Stardust” in one take,” said Shaw. “I’d like to see Fleetwood Mac match that.” The crowd loved it.
Artie Shaw—articulate, opinionated, controversial—was back in the news.
An unhappy Billie Holiday left the Basie band in mid-February 1938, and here she was, four weeks later, in Boston and joining the Art (not yet Artie) Shaw Orchestra. That band was working out of Charlie Shribman’s Roseland-State Ballroom, on Mass Ave at Burbank. The brothers Charlie and Sy Shribman, in return for a percentage of the band’s future earnings, were backing Shaw financially and providing rehearsal space for the band during its incubation period.
Shaw’s Orchestra would play at the Roseland-State on Tuesdays and Saturdays, broadcasting over the CBS radio network on Tuesday at midnight, and on Saturday at 6:30—early, before people went out for the evening. Midweek, Shribman booked the band into other New England venues, so someone in New Haven or Springfield could hear the band on the radio on Saturday, and see it on Thursday. It was a successful system for building a band. (more…)