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Arvell Shaw Dies

Arvell Shaw, a bassist who played with Louis Armstrong for 25 years, died Dec. 5 at his home in Roosevelt, N.Y of a heart attack. He was 79.

Born in St. Louis, in 1923, Shaw began his musical education on brass instruments, playing both the tuba and trombone in high school. In order to play with Mississippi riverboat pianist Fate Marable, Shaw switched to double bass at 19. After keeping time in Navy bands during World War II, Shaw was called into Louis Armstrong’s Orchestra as a temporary substitute for the big band’s regular bassist in 1945. Armstrong kept Shaw in the orchestra until it disbanded in 1947, and then asked the bassist to join his All Star band. Arguably the finest bassist to play with the All Stars, Shaw was an intermittent member until Armstrong died in 1971.

When he had time off from, or when he was simply taking a break from the busy life of an All Star, Shaw worked with a number of other artists such as pianists Dorothy Donegan and Teddy Wilson, whose trio he recorded and toured with in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

In the late ’70s and through the ’80s Shaw freelanced and worked the Broadway scene, playing in the pit bands of shows like Bubbling Brown Sugar and Ain’t Misbehavin’. Shaw was blinded by glaucoma late in his life, but continued to gig until his death, participating in concerts for the Louis Armstrong Archives and playing on jazz cruises. His only leader date, Arvell Shaw and the Swing Legacy All-Stars, was released on Yalloppin Entertainment in 2000 and remains in print. He can of course be heard on many Armstrong discs as well.

Shaw is survived by his companion, Cynthia Moton, a daughter, brother, and sister.

Originally Published