Legendary trumpet artist, composer, arranger and band leader Bobby Shew is widely admired as one of jazz community's finest and most versatile musicians. Renowned for his fiery bebop trumpet, the Grammy-nominated Shew has spent decades performing and recording with the elite of the music world, as well as establishing himself as one of the most sought-after educators in the industry. Shew's remarkable talent, energy and musical soul is recognized by fans all over the globe; his performances as the lead player of the big bands of Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Toshiko Akiyosh, Lew Tabackin and Don Menza, among others, has solidified his status as a master performer.
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he started out playing the guitar at age eight. At ten, he discovered the trumpet by accident. "One day, I was cleaning out a closet with my stepfather and we came upon an old dusty box containing a trumpet," recalls Shew. "I had never seen anything like it before." He went on to teach himself how to play the newly found instrument and immediately joined the advanced band in his school. "It was easy for me to play," says Shew. "I was always good in math, which made reading the notes easy and I was blessed with a good ear."
By the time Shew was 12, he was playing, with several bands, at local dances and by fifteen had put together his own group to play at concerts, dances and in jazz coffee houses. His passionate love for music, especially jazz was solidified at a very young age. "It was at a rehearsal, at age 12, with a big band - my first time ever to trying to play dance music - that I was introduced to jazz," remembers Shew. "The man who drove me to the rehearsals asked me if I played jazz, ‘what's jazz?' I responded. Later, the same guy introduced me to records featuring Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz and J.J Johnson. The next day I broke my piggy bank, rushed over to a local record store and bought all the records I could." His love for old records continues to this day; he owns over 14,000 LP's in his New Mexico home. Shew 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.
Thus, Shew began a career that has encompassed performances with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Woody Herman's Band, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Bill Holman and many other jazz greats. He has performed all over the world and spent decades performing in Las Vegas, becoming a fixture at hotels and casinos and in Los Angeles, where he became a band leader and recorded many of his own albums.
Several of his albums received high accolades from critics and high placement on the airplay charts. "Outstanding In His Field" was nominated for a Grammy in 1980, while, "Heavy Company" was awarded the Jazz Album Of The Year in 1983. While in Los Angeles, Shew could be found playing on the soundtracks of TV shows including "Hawaii 5-O," "The Bob Newhart Show," "Mary Tyler Moore," "Taxi" and "Happy Days", to name a few. His work on film soundtracks includes "Grease I and II" and "Rocky I and II," among many others.
First introduced to Yamaha in 1978, Shew has been a Yamaha artist since 1992, performing on the Yamaha YTR-8310Z trumpet. Recalling his first meeting with Yamaha, Shew remembers, "I was on tour in Japan and was asked to try out a prototype of an instrument. After a few adjustments it was easy to play. When asked if I could get it, they just offered me the prototype." That led to a long collaboration between with the company, culminating in Shew's assistance in creating the "Z" series of Yamaha trumpets and flugelhorns. "These instruments are absolutely the most tailor-made instruments I have ever played," says Shew. "They suit me beautifully for both lead and jazz playing; they've made my life so much easier and enjoyable."
In addition to a busy performing and private teaching schedule, Shew spends a considerable amount of time actively involved in the educational system, conducting clinics for Yamaha and master classes at high schools and college campuses all over the world. Viewing his pedagogy as both moral imperative and a way of giving back, the advice he offers young musicians this simple, yet profound advice: "Get to know who you are and follow that path." Advice which Shew has been following his entire life.
Shew has been active on the Board of Directors of the International Trumpet Guild, and has acted as National Trumpet Chairman for the International Association of Jazz Educators. Though his teaching schedule is limited, Shew still finds time to take on students. "When I moved back to New Mexico, I didn't think I'd be teaching too much," he says. "Yet people started driving and flying from all over the country and the world to study with me. They came in from Germany, Ireland, Japan and Canada." To complement his teaching, Shew has also authored numerous educational articles in various trade magazines, all translated into several languages for worldwide distribution.
Shew brings out his passionate spirit when discussing the art form, which has encompassed his life. "It's natural for me to play jazz, it's where I belong," says Shew, reflecting on his impressive contributions the history and future of jazz. "It's what's kept me alive to this very day."
For more information on the artist please visit: www.bobbyshew.com.