The Essential Artie Shaw collects 38 tracks recorded between 1938 and 1953 for Bluebird. The compilation does an admiral job of showcasing Shaw's skills as bandleader, composer, showman, and musician. The focus of the disc is mainly instrumentals, both in small-group and orchestral settings, with a few tracks spotlighting the vocals of Helen Forrest, Hot Lips Page, Tony Pastor, and Billie Holiday. Along with the abundance of swing standards from the era like "Nightmare," "Frenesi," and "Begin the Beguine," the combination of big band and strings allows for colorful and intricate arrangements on "April in Paris," "Any Old Time," "All the Things You Are," and the Shaw-penned "Concerto for Clarinet (Pts. 1-2)," finding the unique composer on par with Stan Kenton. Collectors should take note of the previously unissued 1936 take of "Streamline."