June 08, 1992 12:00 PM

Artie Shaw

Roberto Duran’s “no mas,” made sense—Sugar Ray Leonard was peppering him. Artie Shaw’s no mas has mystified music lovers since 1954, when the famed bandleader and virtuoso suddenly mothballed his clarinet at the peak of his wealth and fame, saying success had handcuffed his creativity. “I never played again, and I’ve never regretted it,” the 81-year-old reiterates in a liner-note interview here. “All the public wanted was ‘Beguine’ and ‘Frenesi.’ ”

What might have been we’ll never know. What was is something to behold. These 20 tracks on two CDs—quintets and sextets recorded a few months before Shaw’s exit and for the most part unavailable until now—bewitch with Shaw’s long, supple lines, darting invention and tonal beauty. With pianist Hank Jones, vibraphonist Joe Roland, guitarist Tal Farlow and others offering effervescent support, the sessions also bewilder—how could anyone walk away from the incomparable pleasure of making music as enchanting as this? Shaw has always said he wanted to go out at the top. With these recordings, he did. (MusicMasters)

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