And Then the Spell Was Cast
Last month, when Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States, and his wife, Michelle, attended the various Presidential inauguration balls around Washington, DC, much was made of the fact that they danced to the beautiful love song At Last.
What wasn't mentioned was that At Last was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon for Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, in a film for 20th Century-Fox in 1942, "Orchestra Wives." Miller's lead male vocalist, Ray Eberle, and studio singer Pat Friday performed the tender lyrics on the film's soundtrack. When Miller band recorded the song for Victor on May 20, 1942, Eberle was the (sole) featured singer and the record became a big seller, one of Miller's classics.
Actually, the year before, actor John Payne and studio singer Lorraine Elliott (for actress Lynn Bari) sang it for the first Miller movie, "Sun Valley Serenade," also made at 20th Century-Fox. But it was not heard in its entirety in that film - only in the background after In the Mood and then its introduction was played after the Chattanooga Choo Choo sequence.
Of course, a newly-elected President and the First Lady going out dancing the night of his inauguration is nothing new. For instance, in 1961 The Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Ray McKinley performed at President John F. Kennedy's inaugural ball, and in 1981 the Miller Orchestra, then directed by Jimmy Henderson, played for President Ronald Reagan.
One other thing: in an article in the Los Angeles Times the day after President Obama's inauguration, "How Hollywood can honor Obama's ascension," writer Patrick Goldstein astutely pointed out that "The big bands of the late 1930s and 1940s, for example, were integrated long before Washington got around to passing any civil rights legislation. With the arrival of the Obamas, Washington now has a leading man and woman of color, setting a new cultural agenda. I'd say the ball is in Hollywood's court."
Inside the GMO
"Larry O'Brien is feeling and playing great as ever," Glenn Miller Orchestra pianist Ron Mills reported to me by e-mail recently, after the band re-assembled following a two-week vacation. "New positions are trumpets 2 & 3, alto sax 2, trombone 3, and male vocalist."
The current Miller Orchestra itinerary reads as follows: Feb. 2, two private concerts, Naples, FL; Feb. 3, Lemon Bay High School, Englewood, FL; Feb. 4, private dance, Surfside, FL; Feb. 7, Alabama Theatre, N. Myrtle Beach, SC; Feb. 8, Carolina Theatre, Greensboro, NC; Feb. 9, Cross Creek Country Club, Mt. Airy, NC; Feb. 13, Chanute Memorial Auditorium, Chanute, KS; Feb. 14, Memorial Hall, Hutchinson, KS; Feb. 19, Paramount Center for the Arts, Bristol, TN; Feb. 21, Historic Grove Theatre, Oak Ridge, TN; Feb. 23, Panama City Marina Civic Center, Panama City, FL; and Feb. 24, Naval Air Museum, Pensacola, FL.
After I suggested in last month's "Big Band News" that the band make a whole CD of never-recorded original Jerry Gray, Bill Finegan, and Billy May charts, Mills promised, "I'll put a bug in Larry O'Brien's ear . . . Great idea, thanks! There are SO many treasures in the active book, and many more back at the office."
Mills himself has been adding to the band's music library recently, making a new arrangement of Henry Mancini's composition, Lujon, which Mancini recorded on his RCA Victor album "Mr. Lucky Goes Latin" in 1961.
"I used the traditional Miller reed section voicing with a trombone solo on the bridge; embellished from there," he explained.
My best wishes to Larry, Ron, and the rest of the men in the Miller Orchestra!
"They're very young and very talented," Mills added.
More Big Bands In-Person
Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes, Feb. 10, "Casper College Kinser Jazz
Festival," Natrona County High School, Casper, WY; Feb. 20, Adrienne Arsht Center for
the Performing Arts, Miami, FL [ "A Tribute to Ella (Fitzgerald) and Basie" with singer Patti Austin ].
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole, Feb. 8-15, cruise from Lima, Peru to
Acapulco, Mexico; Feb. 16, Burnt Store Presbyterian Church, Punta Gorda, FL.
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow, Feb. 1-2, remainder of cruise aboard
Royal Caribbean's "Mariner of the Seas," debarking in Valparaiso, Chile; Feb. 11, Van
Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, FL.
Les Elgart Orchestra directed by Russ Dorsey, Feb. 14, Sheraton Dallas Hotel, Dallas, TX.
Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Paul Ellington, Feb. 7, Brooklyn Arts Center, Brooklyn,
NY [ with singer Patti Austin ].
Woody Herman's Thundering Herd directed by Frank Tiberi, Feb. 22, Tradition Town Square,
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke, Feb. 4-7, Busch Gardens, Tampa, FL; Feb.
14, Northern Lights Casino, Walker, MN.
Congratulations, Hank and George!
90-year-old pianist Hank Jones (Kirk '45; Shaw '53-'54; Goodman '56-'58) is one of the latest recipients for the Recording Academy's "Lifetime Achievement Award" and 89-year-old record producer George Avakian will be honored with one of the Trustees Awards, during the 51st annual Grammy telecast this month. The Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the recording medium, while the Trustees Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the industry in a non-performing capacity. Both awards are determined by vote of the Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees.
"This year's recipients are a prestigious group of legendary performers, creative architects and technical visionaries who have made lasting contributions to the music and global communities," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. "Their outstanding accomplishments, legendary passion and artistry have positively affected our culture and will continue to influence and inspire generations to come."
A formal acknowledgement of Jones' and Avakian's wins will be made when the Grammy show airs from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 8th, broadcast live over the CBS Television Network.
Yes, He Could Play That, Too
After Artie Shaw moved to Spain in the mid-1950s, he didn't give up music entirely.
Though he no longer played his clarinet, he did purchase an Ignacio Fleta guitar in 1957. A man of many interests, Shaw was a "classical guitar hobbyist."
Guitar Salon International, a dealer of fine guitars, presently has for sale the one which belonged to Shaw. The guitar, made of spruce and Indian rosewood, has several "well-repaired cracks" and is considered in "good condition."
"This instrument would be highly satisfying to collector and concert artist alike," it is stated on Guitar Salon's website.
Sunny Skylar, 95, vocalist (Hall '34-'35; Lyman '36-'37; Whiteman '38; Lopez '39-'43) - songwriter (Just a Little Bit
South of North Carolina; Besame Mucho; Amor; Gotta Be This Or That; I Used to Work in Chicago; You're Breaking My Heart; Be
Mine Tonight), d.Feb. 2, 2009.
Blossom Dearie, 82, vocalist (Herman '46 [ as member of The Blue Flames ]; Rey '46-'47? [ as member of The Blue
Reys ] ), d.Feb. 7, 2009, "natural causes."
Vic Lewis, 89, guitarist-conductor (with Hackett in band on 10/5/38 and 10/19/38 Esquire recordings; with Ferguson in
orchestra on Nems sessions '67-'68), d.Feb. 9, 2009.
Joe Showler, 65, Teagarden authority-biographer (unpublished manuscript), d.Feb. 10, 2009,
Louie Bellson, 84, drummer (Fio Rito '42; Goodman '42 / '46; T. Dorsey '47-'49; James '51; Ellington '51-'53; Dorsey Bros.
'55-'56) - bandleader, d.Feb. 14, 2009, complications of Parkinson's disease.
Happy Birthday to You
Snooky Young, trumpeter (Lunceford '39-'42; Basie '42 / '43 / '45 / '46-'48 / '57-'62; Hampton '44-'45),
b. Feb. 3, 1919.
Sammy Nestico, arranger - composer (Basie '67-'84), b. Feb. 6, 1924.
Buddy Morrow, trombonist (Shaw '36-'37; T. Dorsey '38-'39; Whiteman '39-'40; Crosby '41-'42) - bandleader ('50-'73;
Miller Orch. '74; T. Dorsey Orch. '77- ), b.Feb. 8, 1919.
Gene Lees, author (Leader of the Band: The Life of Woody Herman; Meet Me at Jim & Andy's Jazz Musicians and Their World;
Gene Lees' Jazzletter), b.Feb. 8, 1928.
Elliot Lawrence, pianist - bandleader, b.Feb. 14, 1925.
Peggy King, vocalist (Spivak '50; Flanagan '51; J. Gray '55 "Stand By for Music"), b.Feb. 16, 1930.
Pete Christlieb, tenor saxophonist (J. Gray '63-'64; Zentner '65; Bellson '67; Severinsen / Tonight Show '72-'92),
b.Feb. 16, 1945.
Orrin Tucker, saxophonist - bandleader, b.Feb. 17, 1911.
Buddy DeFranco, clarinetist (Fio Rito '42; Barnet '43-'44; T. Dorsey '44-'45 / '45-'46 / '47; Basie '50) - bandleader
('51; Miller Orch. '66-'74), b. Feb.17, 1923.
Joe Wilder, trumpeter (Hampton '46; Lunceford '47; Basie '53-'54), b.Feb. 22, 1922.
Joe LaBarbera, drummer (Herman '72 "The Raven Speaks"), b.Feb. 22, 1948.
Dave Pell, tenor saxophonist (Brown '48-'55), b.Feb. 26, 1925.
New Compact Discs
Louis Armstrong, "Bing and Satchmo," DRG 91515 [ June 1960 Project Records sessions with Bing Crosby,
Billy May and His Orchestra; = MGM LP SE3882P, CD Axis ( Aus ) CDAX 701567 ].
---, "Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson," Essential Jazz Classics 40 [ recorded for Verve in 1957 ].
Count Basie, "Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 19: Count Basie," TCB ( Sw ) 2192 [ the band live in
Sept. 1956, part 1 ].
Benny Carter, "Benny Carter Plays Cole Porter's Can-Can and Anything Goes," Lone Hill Jazz
( Sp ) LHJ10363 [ = United Artists LPs "Can Can" and "Aspects/Jazz Calendar"; latter already reissued on CD as Capitol Jazz
52677 in 1996 ].
Coleman Hawkins, "Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster: The Complete Session,"
Essential Jazz Classics 55434 [ recorded 1957 ].
Eddy Howard, "My Best to You," Jasmine ( UK ) JASCD 497 [ 2-CD set ].
Stan Kenton, "Music '55," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 775 [ with guests Count Basie, Buddy
Rich, Illinois Jacquet, and others ].
Fats Waller, "Fats Waller: The Complete Recorded Works, Volume 6," JSP ( UK ) 952
[ 5-CD set; according to publicity, it includes all of his "last sides, the V-Discs, some oddities that have come to light since the series
started and some 'disputed' tracks where even the experts are not absolutely sure if it's the man himself" ].
various artists, "Band Theme Songs Rare and Famous," Vintage Music Productions VMP
0261 [ incl. Van Alexander, Bob Chester, Jerry Gray, Mal Hallett, Ina Ray Hutton, Isham Jones, Andy Kirk, others; recorded
various artists, "Porgy & Bess," Audite 23405 [ incl. Cab Calloway as "Sportin' Life"; 2 CDs ].
various artists, "Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie," MPI Home Video [ 1993 made-for-TV look at Lucille Ball and
her husband, bandleader Desi Arnaz ].
New In-Print and / or Online
Belcher, Roy, "Concert Review: Glenn Miller Orchestra Directed by Ray McVay," Big Bands
International, No.126 / Feb. 2009, pp.13-14 [ "Ray McVay is noted for his exceptionally high
standards which were strongly in evidence here." ]
David Burke, "Louie Bellson remembered as 'world's greatest drummer,'" [ Davenport, IA ]
Quad-City Times, Feb. 17, 2009.
Nate Chinen, "Louis Bellson, Dynamic Jazz Drummer, Dies at 84," New York Times, Feb. 17,
Don Heckman, "Obituaries: Louie Bellson dies at 84; Duke Ellington called him 'the world's
greatest drummer,'" Los Angeles Times, Feb. 17, 2009.
Bruce H. Klauber, "'Big Bands in the Jazz Age' lecture," Naples [ FL ] Daily News, Feb. 3, 2009
[ educator Henry Ettman will talk about Henderson, Redman, Ellington, and other bands, in
a program at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts ].
Margaret Matray, "Q&A with Bill Hughes, leader of the Count Basie Orchestra," Casper [ WY]
Star-Tribune / casperstartribune.net, Feb. 5, 2009.
Dennis McCarthy, "Charity began with a poker game," Los Angeles Daily News, Feb. 5, 2009
[ The Help Youth Charities Fund, started in 1952 by several men including Max Herman
(Crosby '39-'42; Vallee Navy band '42-'45) has raised more than $4 million to help kids with disabilities.
Now age 94, Herman hopes that others will carry on the work ].
Debbie Robinson, "Big Band puts 600 fans in the mood," Joplin [ MO ] Globe / joplinglobe.com,
Feb. 15, 2009 [ review of a concert by The Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien
Feb. 15th at the Coleman Theatre in Miami, OK ].
Dan K. Thomasson, "Harry James is gone, his music thrives," Scripps Howard News Service /
scrippsnews.com, Feb. 19, 2009 [ "Why has the James band survived when the others have
faded? The obvious factor has been the Harry James Foundation, which owns the charts and
is dedicated to preserving the legacy." ].
John Williams, "In the mood for music," NewsOK / newsok.com, Feb. 5, 2009 [ The Glenn Miller
Orchestra has added a performance at the UCO Jazz Lab in Edmond, OK on Feb. 16th ].
Bill Wundram, "Louie's last concert: He was young again," [ Davenport, IA ] Quad-City Times,
Feb. 16, 2009 [ remembrance of Louie Bellson's last Davenport gig, on Oct. 15, 2008 ].
send feedback about February 2009 "Big Band News" via e-mail