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Born in New York City, Artie Shaw would become one of the top bandleaders in the swing era. He began his musical career as a highly sought-after alto saxophone player in the New York area, and was able to benefit from the growth of radio and studio recordings. As he perfected his technical ability with various dance bands, he was still relatively unknown in the early 30’s when he began to focus exclusively on the Clarinet while Swing music began to grow in popularity.

While we may carefully analyze the two pieces to satisfy our curiosity regarding musical evolution in Jazz, we should also not lose sight of the fact that these are two very enjoyable styles of music. From the lively swing orchestras inspiring large audiences to dance, to the softer Bossa Nova sound which is pleasing to hear in a relaxed setting, both have contributed to the growth of musical creativity in Jazz from the 1930’s through today.

Shaw first broke through with an unusual string quartet in New York’s Imperial Theater. By early 1937, Shaw had formed a conventional swing band which would eventually record “Begin the Beguine”. Tormented by the pressures that came with unwanted fame, Artie Shaw disbanded his band at the height of his fame, but was able to mount a comeback with a new band the following year to record many more hit songs. Artie Shaw would go on to serve honorably in the US Navy during World War 2, but after returning in the mid-40’s it became clear that the times had changed, and it was no longer economically viable to support a big swing band. He continued to play sporadically and attempt to lead new bands until discouragement led him to announce his retirement in the mid-1950’s, after which he would never even play the clarinet again.

Antonio Carlos Jobim, also known by his lifelong nickname of “Tom”, grew up in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. During his late teens he began to pursue an education as an Architect, but by the time he turned 20, he could not resist a powerful attraction to music so he started to play the piano in nightclubs and worked in music studios. He recorded his first record in 1954 and found fame 2 years later when he provided the score for the play “Orfeo do Carnaval”. In 1958, along with the work of Brazilian Singer Joao Gilberto, Antonio Jobim launched the phenomenon known as Bossa Nova. In...

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...finado on the other hand seems to be less restrictive, allowing the guitar to fade out right as the saxophone begins his contribution to the piece. Underneath it all, the rhythm section’s contribution as they keep time seems to reinforce this changing style of increasing creativity with the steady flat traditional sound of swing to the very creative rhythms in Bossa Nova.

Throughout the history of musical evolution, there are few styles which show more variation than Jazz. As such, it is sometimes enlightening to illustrate this variation by examining and contrasting some of the very unique styles of jazz, as well as the people behind the music. Within these pages, we will examine the Swing era represented by the performance of “Begin the Beguine” from Artie Shaw’s Orchestra with the Bossa Nova sound of “Desafinado” composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim. During this investigation we will see how two very different people from very different eras and styles both enjoyed commercial success under the big tent of Jazz music, as the highly organized sound of the big band era slowly gave way to newer styles that encouraged freedom in creativity by the soloists.
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