Repertory Ensemble gets ‘In the Mood’ with Glenn Miller
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Summing up the most popular music from swing era of the 1930s and 1940s in two words is easy – Glenn Miller. The trombone player and band leader not only had a parade of chart-topping hits like “In the Mood” from 1939 to 1942, he created music that’s been adopted by every generation since that time.
So paying tribute to “The Unforgettable Glenn Miller” at the first concert of Purdue’s new repertory jazz band, the American Music Repertory Ensemble, represented a “no-brainer” for director M.T. “Mo” Trout.
At 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center, the American Music Repertory Ensemble (AMRE) along with the Lab Jazz Band will salute the swing era and Glenn Miller, in particular, in a concert dedicated to presenting the music the way fans of Miller’s band first heard it some 60 years ago.
Admission to the concert is free.
The concert represents a debut of sorts for AMRE whose parent group, the American Music Review was created by Bill Kisinger in 1968. Under Kisinger’s guidance the group evolved from a theme-park style show band to a swing era big band. When Kisinger retired in the spring of 2006, Trout took over the group and decided to push its definition one step further – to performing music by the greatest jazz composers of the 20th century and presenting it exactly as it was created.
“When you look at all the big bands, Glenn Miller was easily the most popular. He had the most hits and is still the best known today,” says Trout. Kisinger’s group has a vocal tradition of singers with the big band, and “Miller’s big band also used a lot of different vocals so it’s a nice transition from AMR into this new concept,” he adds.
It was Glenn Miller’s distinctive sound along with the fact that his band was so well rehearsed and polished that set him apart, Trout says. Miller, who had suffered through less than successful band experiences, realized that he needed a unique sound and dedicated himself to finding it. After a lot of work, he decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone on the same note, while three saxophones harmonized. The idea clicked with the band and the public loved the sound.
Before him, Count Basie has used layered rhythmic riffs behind his instrumental soloists, but “Glenn Miller had more imaginative uses that didn’t rely on soloists,” says Trout who describes Miller’s sound as “a good balance between the sweet sound of the time – relying less on pure and more on the melody – and pure swing. Most bands of the day were known as either ‘hot’ swing bands or sweet bands. Miller could do both.”
Featured Miller works on the concert, performed by AMRE, include his famed “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Little Brown Jug.”
Trout says another great showcase of Miller’s style is “Caribbean Clipper.” His use of trumpets in the piece “creates a really unique sound that was not heard in other big bands,” he says. “It’s a very fast, swing jump tune with lots of high trumpet parts.”
The Jerry Gray tune “Sun Valley Jump,” also on the program, layers melodies and patterns in the same way as “In the Mood.” “Surprisingly, it’s not as well known as ‘In the Mood,’ but I think it’s the better piece,” says Trout.
Representing the sweet vein of Miller’s jazz is “Serenade in Blue” which was written for the movie “Orchestra Wives in” 1942 and has a symphonic beginning. As was common in the swing era, “this piece starts out with a long instrumental introduction before the vocalists come in.” Trout says. Alex Woods, from Coos Bay, OR, is the feature singer on the piece.
Three female singers - Rachel Kirkpatrick of West Lafayette, Darby Brignac of Jasper and Erica Bourdage of Carmel - bring the Andrews Sisters to life performing “Rum and Coca Cola” dominated by calypso rhythms and “Apple Blossom Time.” One of AMRE's trombonists, Bryant Gilliam of Indianapolis, shifts to the vocal spotlight for “I Got a Gal From Kalamazoo.” He re-creates the amiable singing style of Tex Beneke that made Miller’s novelty numbers big hits. Trout says the band, in keeping with its mandate, will do the full concert version of the tune instead of the condensed version.
To open the concert the Lab Jazz Band performs an array of jazz standards including “Take the A Train,” “Perdido,” “Moonlight in Vermont” and a Latin jazz piece “I Let the Songo Out of My Heart.”
All three of Purdue’s jazz groups, the American Music Repertory Ensemble, the Purdue Jazz Band and Lab Jazz Band, will next be featured in concert at 8 p.m. on Nov. 17 in Loeb Playhouse.