Lew Shaw admits he can’t sing and he doesn’t play an instrument. But over the past 30 years he has become a Jazz Hero as a chronicler for various publications of jazz events and musicians nationally, and a producer, promoter, and advocate for the performance and perpetuation of classic jazz in Arizona. This year, he was so honored by the Jazz Journalists Association as one of 20 individuals and groups who have made significant contributions in the performance, promotion, and perpetuation of jazz in their local communities.
In acknowledging the honor, Lew commented, “It’s nice to be recognized, and I appreciate that. Writing has always been one of the joys of my life. So it’s been most satisfying to have helped sustain a viable publication that publicizes this original American art form and to give broader recognition to the talented and deserving musicians who perform this music.”
Lew grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts during the big band era, listening to remote broadcasts from ballrooms across the country and occasionally catching a touring band on the bill with a movie at a theater in his hometown. “That was our entertainment,” he says, referring to those pre-television, pre-Internet days.
Lew is a World War II Navy veteran and a graduate of Brown University. His first venture into jazz journalism was as the publicist for the Berkshire Music Barn in Lenox, Massachusetts, where for three summers he promoted concerts featuring such stars as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, and Stan Getz.
When Lew and his wife Carol moved to Arizona in 1984, he became an instigator in the formation of the Arizona Classic Jazz Society, which grew to 1,000 members, and, subsequently, its annual festival. He served on the ACJS Board, did the marketing for the two entities and edited the Society newsletter for ten years.
He served for six years on the Board of the American Federation of Jazz Societies, including three years as national president. Under his leadership, AFJS became an effective networking and communications organization for jazz societies and festivals, sponsoring workshops throughout the United States.
Perhaps most influentially, for three decades he has been a key writer and columnist for several jazz publications, currently The Syncopated Times, a monthly “exploring the World of Hot Jazz, Ragtime, and Swing.” Lew is also author of Jazz Beat: Notes on Classic Jazz, profiles of musicians he has interviewed. He focuses on today’s champions who share authentic jazz with younger generations, enlightening the uninitiated that real jazz is alive, well, and deserves (as well as rewards) participation.
In reviewing Jazz Beat, fellow jazz journalist Cam Miller wrote: “Lew Shaw is my kind of writer: a gifted wordsmith who has mastered the technique of writing inside out. Some writers often get in the way of their subjects. But Shaw is a master at keeping his subject in the foreground. Ergo, his interviews leave readers with the impression they are overhearing friendly and enlightening conversations that wind up in print.”
Lew earned his expertise over a professional life in which he has been a sportswriter, newspaper editor, corporate public relations manager, advertising agency CEO, and non-profit association executive. A community activist, he has been a director or officer of more than 30 civic, health, educational, and sports-oriented organizations. For all this, we treasure Lew Shaw as our Phoenix and Chandler, Arizona, Jazz Hero.
Lew Shaw received his 2017 Jazz Hero award at a special presentation by the Arizona Classic Jazz Society on April 23 at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona.
Helen Daley is the President of the Arizona Classic Jazz Society