As a rule, record companies don't give artists the chance to pick the songs when a boxed set is assembled. They might ask the person who writes the liner notes to interview the artist, or they might even have the artist write the liner notes. But the label, not the artist, usually chooses the material. Self Portrait is an exception; when this five-CD, 95-track boxed set was assembled in 2001, a 91-year-old Artie Shaw was given a rare chance to make the selections himself and comment on them. And for those who are seriously into the clarinetist, it is fascinating to see what he chooses. Self Portrait, which spans 1936-1954, contains most of his essential swing, era hits, including "Stardust," "Begin the Beguine," "Frenesi," and his ominous signature tune, "Nightmare."
French artist Colleen is fearless in her willingness to explore new sounds and new ways of creating music as a solo performer. On her new album A flame my love, a frequency she introduces the most drastic change to her music since she began singing on her fourth album. A chance encounter with a Critter and Guitari synthesizer at King Britt’s Philadelphia studio on the Captain of None album tour cracked the compositional model wide open. Colleen bought a Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano with the aim to use it through a newly-acquired Moog filter pedal to create new and interesting rhythms to accompany her voice and viola da gamba. But it turned out the sounds of this viola and rhythm combination was not what she was looking for, so in typical Colleen fashion, she set the viola da gamba aside altogether and picked up an additional Critter and Guitari synth, the Septavox, dug out her her trusted Moog delay and dove right in.
The great arranger Don Redman made Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in the mid-1920s the first real swing band, but during the swing era itself, Redman was little known to the general public. His big band (heard here on the second of three "complete" Classics CDs) failed to really catch on, although it stayed together throughout the 1930s. After recording a bunch of sessions in 1933, Redman's orchestra only cut two sides in Jan. 1934 and then none until May 1936. There are vocals on 22 of the 25 selections on this CD; of the three instrumentals, this version of "Christopher Columbus" might not be by Redman…
Moving on from its initial Ultraphone sides, the Quintette du Hot Club de France hit a sort of early zenith with two 1936 sessions cut for the HMV label. This volume of Classics' Chronological series features 12 sides from those May and October HMV dates, including such perennial Reinhardt and Grappelli performances as "Shine," "After You've Gone," and "Georgia on My Mind" - Freddy Taylor, the fine Armstrong-inspired vocalist, only adds to the charm of these and a few other numbers here. The disc also finds the guitar and violin duo on two dates headed up respectively by pianist Garnet Clark and bandleader Michel Warlop (the handful of Warlop numbers also feature the great French clarinetist Alix Combelle). Topped off with some nice trumpet work by American ex-pat Bill Coleman, this Reinhardt disc qualifies as one of a handful of top-notch retrospectives of the guitarist's prime '30s output.