[Dixielandjazz]Beating Up Glenn Miller-was Beneke & Klink sax solo

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Sat Jun 25 09:52:31 PDT 2005

I'm not quite sure I get the beat-up-on-Glenn-Miller thing that's been 
showing up so much. Granted, the fame and the durability of many of his 
charts outstrip their quality, especially in light of great big bands 
that weren't getting the same kind of exposure, popular adulation, and 
dough. Granted, his soloists didn't hold a candle to those in the 
jazzier big bands. Granted, his "smooth/sweet" book was crammed with 
sentimental schmaltz, often sung with dreamy malaise by bland 
vocalists, with a few fine tunes showing up.

Having said that, how about some perspective?

 From memory of tons of 78s and from the 20+ double CD "Big Band Box" 
(which includes more than the biggest hits of the best known bands) I 
can testify that most of the big bands had a "sweet" book with bland 
charts and an on-site "crooner." (We all know the exceptions, but they 
were few.) They also had very trivial novelty stuff aplenty--as in the 
jazzed up nursery rhyme and jazzing the classics crazes. (Again, some 
came off well, like Ella's "A-Tisket..." and Les Brown's "Bizet Had his 
Day" and hey, Miller's "Volga Boatman," but most were thin gruel.)

Also, the much maligned "In the Mood" and "String of Pearls" and many 
other Miller charts actually have lines that swing. (This is 
conceptually a world away from Lombardo--please!--who cultivated very 
different traditions of syncopation, orchestration, etc.) It's just 
that we've played and heard the Miller stuff so much that the juice has 
gone out of our performance. I play with a big band that's tired of 
'em, but as a drummer I try to accentuate the positive, literally, 
kicking the phrases with left hand and bass drum support in tasteful 
ways that hopefully refresh the oomph that's in the lines. It's not 
"vintage" performance but it's a way of re-appreciating what's there.

Charlie Suhor

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