Alert Gazette readers will remember that I'm in the middle of a VIRP, namely digitizing a bunch of old vinyl record albums. I'm now going through my parents' collection, and I've turned up another couple of gems.
But first, some context. I'm a long-time fan of Glenn Miller's music. In fact, one of the first music CDs I purchased was In The Digital Mood, which contained a dozen of Miller's original arrangements played by what was in effect a cover band (the musicians are listed on the preceding link). I remember playing it for my dad and pointing out that, while the music was certainly crystal clear, the most amazing thing was the absolute silence between the tracks. I also remember that while he said nothing in response, his expression communicated the fact that I was clearly daft and possibly switched at birth at the hospital.
Anyway, I found a couple of Glenn Miller LPs in my parents' collection, and both of them featured original recordings by both Miller's orchestra and the Army Air Force (AAF) band he led during the latter part of World War II. One is a two-platter set with the unwieldy title of The Complete Glenn Miller - Vol III - 1939-1940; the other is The Authentic Sound of Glenn Miller - Yesterday.
The first album, released in the mid-70s, featured songs that were originally issued by RCA Victor's budget label Bluebird Records. According to the liner notes on the second album (the entirety of which are included below), Miller actually requested that his music be published by Bluebird instead of the flagship RCA Victor in order to avoid the competition of the likes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. The Bluebird records primarily contain songs that I'm not familiar with, but there are arrangements of standards like When You Wish Upon A Star (the first Disney song to win an Academy Award), Stardust, and Melancholy Baby.
On the other hand, The Authentic Sound album is pretty much a greatest hits collection, with the exception of Alice Blue Gown, a waltz that I'd never before heard. Miller was primarily known for his swing music, and waltzes were a rarity in his book, according to the album's liner notes.
And speaking of liner notes -- they are real focus of this post. They were written by George T. Simon, a close friend of Miller, his drummer in the band's early days and then later as a member of the AAF Band, and eventually a long-time editor of Metronome, a music magazine that ended in 1961 after eighty years of publication. After reading up a bit about Mr. Simon, I suspect that if there was anything he didn't know about jazz and swing during the Glenn Miller era (and for decades afterward), it probably wasn't worth learning.
Liner notes (aka album notes) are a literary art form that I suspect are underappreciated in the age of streaming music. But I didn't realize that "Best Album Notes" are an ongoing Grammy Award category, and have been since 1964. And in 1978, George T. Simon won a Grammy in this category for his contribution to a Bing Crosby album. (By the way, that Wikipedia article about the Grammy award is a fascinating read in itself, containing such tidbits as Johnny Cash's award for the notes on a Bob Dylan album, and Tom T. Hall's award for the notes on...a Tom T. Hall album.)
Excuse the rambling...back to the subject at hand. The Authentic Sound album is a pleasure to listen to, especially knowing that it represents performances by the actual musicians that comprised the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Army Air Force Band. The skill of those musicians is evident even to a casual listener. If you can find a copy of the album, I recommend it...and not just for the music.
Simon's liner notes, following a quick history of Miller's early recording career, provide a descriptive blurb for each of the dozen songs on the album. Simon assumes a certain amount of musical knowledge on the part of the reader, and throws in details that only someone who was on the ground with Miller could have known. Glenn Miller's arrangements and his bands' skill made their music incredibly accessible, but Simon's liner notes somehow even improve that accessibility. For that reason -- and to preserve the historic record -- I'm reproducing those notes in their totality below. You may think that's a geeky thing to do and I won't argue it's not, but if you're a Glenn Miller fan, I believe you'll appreciate Mr. Simon's contribution.
By the way, even if you choose to skip most of the liner notes, at least jump to the bottom and read the one about Little Brown Jug, because I include a little surprise to go along with it.
So, Glenn Miller was a trombonist, but he's rarely heard playing with his own band. Since Mr. Simon has kindly pointed out that Little Brown Jug is an exception, I thought it would be fun to extract Miller's solo for your listening pleasure. Here 'tis: