Monday, April 16, 2012

JAZZ Appreciation Month: Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller is the ultimate example of the "what is jazz?" question. He hung out and was listened to by people like Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Gene Krupa, all recognizable jazz greats. His recordings (1939-1944) was during the Big Band Era, and I am not going to try to break Big Band, Ragtime, Boogie-Woogie, or anything else out and away from "Jazz." Some of it may be more "pop" than "jazz," but in my opinion it's still Jazz. When he was criticized for being too mainstream, he supposedly commented, "I don't want a jazz band."

And for millions of white kids, Glenn Miller was their first taste of what Jazz could be. From all I've read and seen, Glenn Miller seems to have been the Elvis or Pat Boone or NKOTB of the Big Band era. By that I mean that there was already Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, but Glenn Miller was the one who had the huge hit records. Was it fair? Maybe not, but at the very least we can't argue that Miller was talented: he wrote "In The Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade," two of the best-known instrumentals in the western world. Even today, for thousands who don't know his name, songs like "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and "Kalamazoo" are instantly recognizable. So he had "it," and was the white male face that fit the times. That might be one of the reasons his music is still treasured.

Another reason might be that Glenn Miller went missing December 15, 1944 on a routine flight over the English Channel. He was only 40 years old. Glenn Miller seemed to have an uncanny ear for what people wanted to hear and was positioned to be a huge influence on Post-WWII music. Sadly, that was not to be.

Here then is Glenn Miller and his orchestra in a clip from the 1941 movie, Sun Valley Serenade. The actors featured are John Payne and Sonya Henie.

No comments:

Post a Comment