Swing in uniform
More than half a century after he disappeared during a wartime flight over the English Channel in pea soup fog, a new collection of Glenn Miller music has come to light.
"The Secret Broadcasts," a three-CD collection, is taken from newly discovered tapes Miller's Army Air Forces band made for broadcast in enemy territory as a psychological weapon. The tapes had been in a private collection until recently, and have been digitally remastered.
And, oh, what a band! Some of the men had earned fame or at least local reputations in the pre-war civilian bands; others were simply talented recruits that Miller pulled from other military outfits. From the sound of these recordings, though, all of them could play and no wonder; given his fame, once Miller signed on for military duty, he had his pick of the best white musicians in the Army.
Vocalist Johnny Desmond was the star of the fold, with the ability to shout out a blues or caress a tender love song in best Sinatra mode. And military or not, this was above all a Glenn Miller band. Actually, it was several bands: a jazz band, a marching band, and a larger dance band with strings. But all of the tracks here, whether Strauss' "Blue Danube" or one of Miller's own hits, bear the unmistakable Miller touch: a backbeat to rival the Basie band's, rousing horn charts and ever-so-smooth saxophone choruses.
The songs range from covers of Miller's civilian hits ("Moonlight Serenade," "In the Mood") to the hits of other big bands of the time (Artie Shaw's "Begin the Beguine," Charlie Barnett's "Cherokee") to wartime songs that tied the nation together through their appeal to the common struggle ("A Fellow on a Furlough," "Guns in the Sky") to absolute showstoppers like a rousing, swinging, rowdy, over-the-top version of "Everybody Loves My Baby."
Whether you lived through the war years and want a bit of nostalgia, or were not yet born and wonder what all the big band fuss is about, this album is one of the best Glenn Miller collections available.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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