Artie Shaw, By Tom Nolan

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The Independent Culture

Outside the jazz fraternity, the electrifying clarinetist is best-known for his short-lived marriage to Ava Gardner. He explained the bust-up with a joke about a man telling his wife why he couldn't make love ("I can't think of anyone tonight"').

"What happens," Shaw lamented, "if you're lying in bed with a goddess and you can't think of anybody?" Nolan ruminates on the mésalliance with characteristic subtlety: "Call it a tragedy. Call it a damned shame. Call it a stupid mistake. Call it quits."

But you come to relish the hyperbole in this assiduous account of a complex, bookish talent, whose "euphoric clarinet soared like the wrath and love of God". In the manner of J.D.Salinger, Shaw abruptly quit music at the age of 44.