Obscure Trumpet Masters #7 – Bobby Shew

Bobby Shew

Don’t be afraid TO TRY!! Better to explore and discover than to keep your head and mind buried in the sand of tradition (and misinformation). – Bobby Shew

The first time I ever heard a CD, Bobby Shew was playing.

I was working at Macy’s in the early 80’s, selling rugs. We were located right next to electronics. The audio guys loved to demonstrate this new “digital technology”. What better way to do it than with Bobby Shew and Chuck Findley’s then new release, Trumpets No End. The stunningly clear sound and the musician’s technical mastery made me a fan of Shew (and CDs) for life.

Bobby Shew is a musician’s musician. Cats on the scene speak highly of him; his name is listed in the trumpet section of countless recordings; he’s still a first call sideman, he is a universally respected clinician and he has also recorded some very impressive work as a leader. But outside of musicians and true jazz cognoscenti, he is unknown.

Born Robert Joratz in Albuquerque, NM in 1941, Bobby Shew began playing the guitar at the age of eight and switched to the trumpet at ten. Paradoxically, for such a renowned educator, Shew is for the most part, self-taught. By the time he was thirteen he was playing at local dances with a number of bands and by fifteen he had put together his own group to play at dances, occasional concerts and in jazz coffee houses. Shew’s professional career began when he was in high school; playing as many as six nights a week in a dinner club.

(In the clip below, Bobby Shew trades licks with himself, using a creation he calls the “Shewhorn”)

A few years later, Shew joined the Tommy Dorsey ghost band, which led to him being asked to play with Woody Herman in 1965.  When Buddy Rich formed his big band the next year, Shew got a call. Many other similar situations followed and Bobby played lead trumpet for a number of pop stars. This brought him to Las Vegas where he became prominent in various hotels and casinos. By this time Bobby was widely known for his strong lead playing rather than as a jazz soloist. So late in 1972 he decided to make a move to the Los Angeles area in order to get re-involved in developing as a jazz player.

Once in LA, Bobby quickly found what he was looking for.  In the years to come he spent time with the groups of Art Pepper, Bud Shank, and Horace Silver, plus numerous big bands such as Louis Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin, Oliver Nelson, Terry Gibbs, Benny Goodman and Maynard Ferguson.

Telepathy, Bobby’s 1978 debut as a leader (at the tender age of 37), happened by accident; a quintet album was to be recorded that day and had to be cancelled, due to scheduling conflicts. Shew and pianist Bill Mays suddenly found themselves alone in the studio with the booked time available.  Without a lot of discussion, they chose six standards and created two on the spot improvisations.  The result was a fine duet album. Telepathy has never been released on CD, but if you stumble across a copy of the LP, it is worth picking up.

Having just turned 70 on March 4, Bobby Shew (http://www.bobbyshew.com/) is still very active, mostly on the West Coast jazz scene. If you get a chance to hear him live, check him out; or pick up one of the excellent discs below. You’ll be glad you did.
Recommended Recordings:

5 Responses to “Obscure Trumpet Masters #7 – Bobby Shew”

  1. there you go again. So when you are done educating me about the trumpet, what will be the next instrument?

    • Thanks for reading them Wayne! We’ve got three to go in the trumpet series (including one today). After that, who knows? We’ll see what’s next… I really appreciate your support.

  2. Bobby Shew coached my summer jazz workshop combo in Port Townend, WA about 10 years ago. He was one of the first people to really light a fire under my ass about “making the changes” and practicing ii-V licks — he was firm about it but not hard-assed, clearly he had a lot of love for the music.

  3. Girish Trivedi Says:

    Thanks for Bobby Shew; I have his double CD with Irv Kotler.

    His Shewhorn reminds me of Clark Terry (RIP) trading eights
    with himself with two SEPERATE instruments: Trumpet & Flugelhorn.

    Another forgotten trumpet giant I can think of is Dupree Bolton
    whom I met some years ago as a street musician in San Francisco;
    I did not quite get his name at that time but he did say that he had
    played with Ch. Parker in the Jay McShann band; when I asked him to play Scrapple from the Apple, he obliged and stunned me; I
    slipped him some beer money.

    Later, I was to learn that at that particular time he was on methodone program; I have his magnificent CD ”FOX” with
    Harold Land playing some staggering charts. RIP.

    Girish
    Mumbai, India

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