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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke


RCA 100 YEARS OF MUSIC 1901 - 2001 07863554592


Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. Track 12 G.M. and The Army Air Force Band.
Featured vocalists - Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Ray Eberle, Dorothy Claire and The Modernaires - no other personnel given.
Recorded c.1939 - 1944.

1. Moonlight Serenade
2. Little Brown Jug
3. In The Mood
4. Pennsylvania 6-5000
5. Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree
(With Anyone Else But Me)
6. Sunrise Serenade
7. Chattanooga Choo Choo
8. Tuxedo Junction
9. American Patrol
10. ( I' ve Got A Gal In ) Kalamazoo
11. Stardust
12. St. Louis Blues March
13. Serenade In Blue
14. Perfidia
15. Juke Box Saturday Night
16. A String Of Pearls

If the sound any band can be claimed to be representative of an era then surely Glenn Miller and his Orchestra must be the band that conjures up the years of the Second World War. There is now so much nostalgia surrounding these recordings that it is extremely difficult to approach them with an unbiased critical ear. Both in the U.K. and the United States there are still many bands performing the arrangements heard on this disc. Over the years the music has become a standard part of the dance band repertoire.
The actual selection of material offered on this compilation could be termed essential, with regards to the band's output. I cannot think of any of the better known Miller recordings which are not featured here. Perhaps the weakest aspect of this release is the lack of information. Very few studio dates are given - and these have to be gleaned from the liner notes. There is no listing of personnel other than the vocalists - admittedly Miller did not build his numbers around strong individualists a la Ellington, but it would have been interesting to know who played what !

The arrangements are of a uniformly high quality. Miller himself being the main orchestrator for the band and the ones he did not write would have been done under his highly critical supervision. The unique sound of the band was achieved by voicing the melody through the saxophone section and then doubling the lead on the clarinet - the classic example of this being Miller's own composition " Moonlight Serenade". The clarinet was used quite regularly as a lead instrument as can be heard in such numbers as " American Patrol "(the clarinet is played by the first alto player and this tune requires quite a facility in the art of juggling as the instruments have to be changed throughout the number with amazing regularity ! ) Other typical "Millerisms " include the use of a pronounced vibrato to add warmth to the reed section and the use of unison passages on the melodies of some of the punchier tunes. Even on the up - tempo selections the band exhibits a greater measure of control than many of its contemporaries. The sections are well drilled and dynamics are always employed to great effect. The jazz solos are merely adequate - but this is not what the band was about - it was really a superior dance band . Interestingly enough, when the arrangements were published commercially the vast majority of the improvisations were transcribed as an option for the musician on that part - he could either read the printed solo or perform his own ad lib. Many of the transcriptions name the original player such as Al Klink or Tex Beneke.

The vocals are strong on all of the tracks which feature them and the backings are clear and cleanly executed without being overpowering. This disc should be of great interest to anyone who appreciates a superior dance band, is a newcomer to the music of Glenn Miller, or who is interested in the popular culture of the war years .

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.

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