While I have always loved good music (not matter what the genre), I confess to being profoundly tone-deaf when it comes to understanding the technical aspects of music itself.
So, when I was watching a TV docmentary series a few years ago about the development of jazz over time, I was very intrigued with the segment that touched upon the career of Artie Shaw (1910-2004), clarinetist par excellence and band leader from the 1930s to the early 1950s. I listened to Shaw playing "Begin the Beguine" (his first massive hit) with his band, and I was HOOKED. Intrigued. Hence, the moment I came across this book last year, I snatched it up. I wasn't disappointed. This book, while tracing the arc of Shaw's life, focuses specifically on his music. Indeed, one of Shaw's contemporaries said of him: "Shaw was unbelievable. He could improvise endlessly, on and on. Shaw's the greatest player I ever heard. It's hard to play the way he plays. It's not an overblown, orchestral style. He makes so many incredible shadings."
Yet, Artie Shaw was not content to devote his life wholly to music. He also tried his hand at writing short stories (as well as an autobiography), farming, fishing, film distribution, marksmanship, lecturing, and broadcasting. He was a very complex, fascinating man.
This book gave me a education, not only about the evolution of popular music from the Swing Era to the early 1950s, but also (thanks to Chapter 7 - " 'S Wonderful: Artie Shaw on Record"), a guide for diving deeper into Artie Shaw's music.