Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Glenn Miller: The Secret Broadcasts

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Although it’s not unusual for record labels to apply some ballyhoo techniques to their promotional campaigns, it does seem especially misleading that RCA chose to cloak its most recent Glenn Miller release in a mantle of mystery. As a follow-up to the well-received British set, The Lost Recordings, The Secret Broadcasts offers a collection of 74 additional wartime transcriptions recorded between March and June 1944, and intended solely for broadcast to servicemen both here and abroad. What is particularly disturbing about the use of the words “lost” and “secret” is that this material has been in wide circulation for many decades, appearing not only on such independent labels as Nostalgia, Rarities, Hep, Magic, Soundcraft, Swing World, Jazz Hour, Big Band Gems, and Jazz Band, but on British and French RCA as well. Given the easy availability of relevant discographies there is simply no excuse for RCA’s deceptive choice of titles.

With authority granted him by the Army Air Force, Captain Miller was able to assemble the most qualified musicians in the service, thereby resulting in the formation of the best and most ambitious orchestra of his career. The men comprising the 17-piece, brass/reeds/rhythm core group and the supplementary 21-man string section were drawn from the leading big bands and symphony orchestras of the day, thus assuring a level of experience far beyond anything to be heard in the then draft-ravaged civilian world. Though jazz was never Miller’s major suit, he was smart enough to understand the tastes of his captive, homesick audience. Thus, wherever possible, he gave solo space to such hot jazzmen as trumpeters Bernie Privin, Bobby Nichols, and Zeke Zarchy, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko, altoman Hank Freeman, tenormen Vince Carbone and Jack Ferrier, and pianist Mel Powell, guitarist Carmen Mastren, bassist Trigger Alpert, and drummer Ray McKinley. While the majority of the arrangements are by Jerry Gray, there are also several choice contributions by Powell, Bill Finegan, and others.

Even in prewar years, it was Miller’s intention to have a band that played all types of popular music, not just swing. Consequently, when he called a jitterbug-tempoed riff tune, he had his carefully sculpted arrangements uppermost in mind, with his soloists being afforded only so much space as was necessary for variety and lift. Generally speaking, the same priorities were maintained with the wartime band, only here there was a loosening up on the jazz prohibitions and a compensatory emphasis on sweet, semi-symphonic sounds as produced by the strings. Besides the high caliber instrumental work, there are also the vocals of young Johnny Desmond, who is featured on “Moon Dreams,” “Suddenly It’s Spring,” “A Lovely Way To Spend The Evening,” “Speak Low,” “Now I Know,” and high class pop tunes.

Out of the 74 tracks almost half are jazz-based swingers of one kind or another, the most outstanding being Powell’s “Mission To Moscow” and “Bubble Bath” and Fletcher Henderson’s “Stealin’ Apples,” all Goodman-based showcases for Hucko. Of equal interest are Gray’s “Everybody Loves My Baby,” “Blue Is The Night,” “Farewell Blues,” and “String Of Pearls;” Powell’s impressionistic, Debussy/Bix-tinged “Pearls On Velvet;” the Basie-inspired “Here We Go Again,” “It Must Be Jelly,” “Enlisted Men’s Mess,” “9:20 Special,” and “Jeep Jockey Jump;” and Finegan’s relaxed takes on “Oh, Lady Be Good!” and “Rhapsody In Blue,” like “String Of Pearls” an opportunity for Privin to shine in the Hackett mode.