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