Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fabergé, Easter Eggs, Bobby Shew and “Joy Spring”

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Making Jazz and making Art require infinite dedication, skill and love. Thank goodness for the dedication of those few who bring it all to a level of genius for the rest of us to marvel at.
- the editorial staff at JazzProfiles

Some of our Jazz and Art features may be inspired, while others are somewhat of a stretch. You be the judge.

I see the world this way from time-to-time and obviously have fun developing video montages of great works of Art set to great Jazz.

Bassist, author and all-around good guy, Bill Crow is always saying that “Jazz is fun” and I am having fun combining these mysterious and magical worlds of artistic and musical creation.

I never know when The Muse is going to strike, but when it does, I run with it – hence the title of this piece which came about after a recent viewing of a museum exhibit of the work of the famous jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, maker of the sumptuous Easter Eggs for the Russian Imperial Family.

And since I am not a believer in coincidence, the fact that Bobby Shew’s version of Joy Spring was next up when on turned on my car’s CD player after visiting the Fabergé museum exhibit pretty much decided the matter for me.

For Spring is the season for Easter, a holiday whose importance rivals that of Christmas in the Russian Orthodox Church, and the joyous celebration of this festive season gave birth to the fabeled Fabergé jeweled eggs. How’s that for a stretch?

All of this is explained in detailed below in an annotation excerpted from the current House of Fabergé website.

In his insert notes to the 1988 CD he recorded with Holland’s famed and illustrious  Metropole Orchestra, trumpeter Bobby Shew described himself this way:

"I've been referred to as an 'incurable romantic." I don't know ... MAYBE! I can tell you that there is a part of me that does, in fact, seek out moments of romance in the music ... no matter what tunes, where or with whom. When I was a child first being exposed to Jazz, I loved the 'feel' of it. I loved the energy of it ... the beauty of it. I wore out copies of Clifford Brown with strings, Stan Getz's COOL VELVET, the soundtrack album to the movie THE SANDPIPER with Jack Sheldon playing those gorgeous Johnny Mandel charts. I guess if I am an incurable romantic, it's because I dreamt, as I think most horn players have, of doing a string album someday before we leave this earth. This recording with the outstanding Metropole Orchestra under the direction of Rob Pronk exceeds my wildest dreams. The real bulk of the credit here go to Lex Jasper whose arranging is absolutely magical."

Bobby is a great soloist but he is also an excellent lead trumpet player; a rare combination in Jazz.

He has appeared on numerous recording dates and has a number of albums out under his own name, none better, in our opinion, than his 1988 Mons CD with The Metropole Orchestra under the direction of Rob Pronk with its finely orchestrated arrangements by Lex Jasper.

We located the following overview of Bobby’s career on

“Bobby Shew, (born March 4th, 1941, Albuquerque, New Mexico) began playing the guitar at the age of eight and switched to the trumpet at ten. By the time he was thirteen he was playing at local dances with a number of bands and by fifteen had put together his own group to play at dances, occasional concerts and in jazz coffee houses. He spent most of his high school days playing as many as six nights a week in a dinner club, giving him an early start to his professional career. During his 3 year tenure as jazz soloist for the famed NORAD band, he decided to make music his career. In 1964, soon after his discharge, he became a member of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

After his stint with Tommy Dorsey, Bobby was asked to play with Woody Herman's band upon Bill Chase's recommendation. He then spent some time playing for Della Reese and Buddy Rich, who's big band had just been formed.  Many other similar situations followed and Bobby played lead trumpet for a number of pop stars. This brought Bobby to live in 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. He landed a lot of studio work and many jazz gigs, working with Bill Holman, Louie Bellson, Maynard Ferguson, and a sustained period with the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin big band. His spell with the band produced many fine albums, notably Kogun (1974), Tales Of A Courtesan (1975) and Insights (1976).  During that time he played in many Los Angeles-based rehearsal bands as well, including Don Menza's and the Capp-Pierce Juggernaut.

In the late 70s, Bobby toured Europe and the UK with Louie Bellson's big band, appearing on some of the live recordings, including Dynamite! (1979) and London Scene (1980). In the 80s Shew's playing was mostly in small groups, as both sideman and leader. Shew has also recorded many of his own albums. Several of these received very high accolades including his albums "Outstanding In His Field" which was nominated for a Grammy in 1980, and "Heavy Company" which was awarded the Grammy for Jazz Album Of The Year in 1983.

Shew has become one of the jazz community's most in-demand clinicians and concert soloists. Bobby is well known for his fiery bebop trumpet and for over three decades has performed and recorded with the elite of the jazz world.

As an educator, he's made his mark as Trumpet Chairman of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) and as the author of numerous articles and books on trumpet performance and technique. Bobby is also on the Board of Directors of the International Trumpet Guild. An important influence through his teaching activities, Shew is ensuring that, in a period when dazzling technical proficiency is becoming almost commonplace, the emotional qualities of jazz are not forgotten.

As for Joy Spring, Ted Gioia’s wonderful new book The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire [New York/London: Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 213] offers this background information on the tune.

© -The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire
by Ted Gioia with permission from Oxford University Press USA. Copyright © 2012 by Ted Gioia.”

 “Now that more than a half century has passed since his tragic death in an automobile accident at age 25, Clifford Brown has fallen into the unfortunate obscurity that seems to afflict many great jazz artists who never lived long enough to make stereo recordings. Jazz fans today do not enjoy listening to tracks that lack clean, crisp, seems-like-you're-in-the-same-room sound quality. The cut-off-point is around 1957.  If artists recorded fine music in 1958 or 1959—as did Mingus, Miles, and Monk— they are widely celebrated today, but if they left the scene in 1956, as did Clifford Brown, they risk becoming a forgotten footnote in the music's history.

Yet the new millennium jazz fans who don't know about Brownie really must acquaint themselves with this artist, who was the most breathtaking trumpeter of the mid-1950's. There's no better place to begin than with "Joy Spring," his most famous and oft-played composition. Brown left behind two studio recordings, and both are worth hearing, although I have a slight preference for the version made with Max Roach at the August 1954 sessions that did much to establish the new hard bop sound of the period.

The song is aptly named. Brown's music captures a more jubilant and optimistic worldview than one encounters with many of the later hard bop players, who aimed for an edgier and grittier sound. His trumpet technique furthered this sense of positive energy: he had a full and beautiful tone, and even at the fastest tempos hit each note cleanly and with what my old philosophy professor would call "intentionality." But not antiseptically, as with so many virtuosos: his playing is as notable for its warmth as it is for its flawless execution. The melody line of "Joy Spring" furthers this life-embracing vibe, with its phrases that constantly return to declamatory chord tones, and the modulation up a half step for the second eight bars—a common arranger's device for making a chart seem brighter and more insistent, but one that is rarely written into the lead sheet of a modern jazz combo tune. …”

And we located this synopsis of Fabergé’s career on the current House of Fabergé website.

© -Excerpted from, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The series of lavish Easter eggs created by Fabergé for the Russian Imperial family, between 1885 and 1916, against an extraordinary historical backdrop, is regarded as the artist-goldsmith’s greatest and most enduring achievement.

The Imperial Easter eggs are certainly the most celebrated and awe-inspiring of all Fabergé works of art, inextricably bound to the Fabergé name and legend. They are also considered as some of the last great commissions of objets d’art.

The story began when Tsar Alexander III decided to give a jewelled Easter egg to his wife the Empress Marie Fedorovna, in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal.

It is believed that the Tsar, who had first become acquainted with Fabergé’s virtuoso work at the Moscow Pan-Russian Exhibition in 1882, was inspired by an 18th century egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark.

The object was said to have captivated the imagination of the young Maria during her childhood in Denmark. Tsar Alexander was apparently involved in the design and execution of the egg, making suggestions to Fabergé as the project went along.

Easter was the most important occasion of the year in the Russian Orthodox Church, equivalent to Christmas in the West. A centuries-old tradition of bringing hand-coloured eggs to Church to be blessed and then presented to friends and family, had evolved through the years and, amongst the highest echelons of St Petersburg society, the custom developed of presenting valuably bejewelled Easter gifts.

So it was that Tsar Alexander III had the idea of commissioning Fabergé to create a precious Easter egg as a surprise for the Empress, and thus the first Imperial Easter egg was born.

Known as the Hen Egg, it is crafted from gold, its opaque white enamelled ‘shell’ opening to reveal its first surprise, a matt yellow gold yolk. This in turn opens to reveal a multi-coloured, superbly chased gold hen that also opens. Originally, this contained a minute diamond replica of the Imperial Crown from which a small ruby pendant egg was suspended. Unfortunately these last two surprises have been lost.

The Empress’s delight at this intriguing gift with its hidden jewelled surprises was the starting point for the yearly Imperial tradition that continued for 32 years until 1917 and produced the most opulent and captivating Easter gifts the world has ever seen. The eggs were private and personal gifts, and the whole spectacular series charted the romantic and tragic story leading up to the end of the mighty Romanovs.

Each egg, an artistic tour de force, took a year or more to make, involving a team of highly skilled craftsmen, who worked in the greatest secrecy. Fabergé was given complete freedom in the design and execution, with the only prerequisite being that there had to be surprise within each creation. Dreaming up each complex concept, Fabergé often drew on family ties, events in Imperial Court life, or the milestones and achievements of the Romanov dynasty, as in the Fifteenth Anniversary Egg of 1911, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of Nicholas II’s accession to the throne, or the Romanov Tercentenary Egg of 1913 that celebrated 300 years of the House of Romanov, showing portrait miniatures of the Russian dynastic rulers.

Although the theme of the Easter eggs changed annually, the element of surprise remained a constant link between them. The surprises ranged from a perfect miniature replica of the Coronation carriage - that took 15 months to make working 16-hour days - through a mechanical swan and an ivory elephant, to a heart-shaped frame on an easel with 11 miniature portraits of members of the Imperial family.

Alexander III presented an egg each year to his wife the Empress Marie Fedorovna and the tradition was continued, from 1895, by his son Nicholas II who presented an egg annually to both his wife the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and to his mother the Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna. However, there were no presentations during 1904 and 1905 because of political unrest and the Russo-Japanese War.

The most expensive was the 1913 Winter Egg, which was invoiced at 24,600 roubles (then £2,460). Prior to the Great War, a room at Claridges was 10 shillings (50 pence) a night compared to approximately £380 today. Using this yardstick, the egg would have cost £1.87 million in today’s money.

The Winter Egg, designed by Alma Pihl, famed for her series of diamond snowflakes, is made of carved rock crystal as thin as glass. This is embellished with engraving, and ornamented with platinum and diamonds, to resemble frost. The egg rests on a rock-crystal base designed as a block of melting ice. Its surprise is a magnificent and platinum basket of exuberant wood anemones. The flowers are made from white quartz, nephrite, gold and demantoid garnets and they emerge from moss made of green gold. Its overall height is 14.2cm. It is set with 3,246 diamonds. The egg sold at Christie’s in New York in 2002 for US$9.6 million.

Of the 50 eggs Fabergé made for the Imperial family from 1885 through to 1916, 42 have survived.”

Bobby’s brilliant trumpet playing and the stunning Fabergé jeweled eggs along with other works of art by his studio are all on display in the following video tribute to both of them.

Making Jazz and making Art require infinite dedication, skill and love.

Thank goodness for the dedication of those few who bring it all to a level of genius for the rest of us to marvel at.