Miller Time: Are you in the mood?

If this were an ad for beer, it might say, “Cool, clean and refreshing!” This time, it’s a tribute to one of the most popular musicians of the swing era: trombonist, composer, arranger and bandleader, Glenn Miller! I recorded these using the GarageBand software on my mac. I used my keyboard/synthesizer, in this case, a Yamaha Motif 6, to play the songs, with each instrument sound recorded separately on one track in GarageBand. This long overdue project gathers together some favorite hits including “Little Brown Jug,” “American Patrol,” “Moonlight Serenade” and more. Here are the five songs I completed during the summer of 2012. Updates were made in 2013, but due to my extremely varied music interests, work on the album has now become an impossible Gilbertian battle between the size of my hands and of my orchestral mind. I can assure you, music lovers, that one of these years, the album will be completed! Here’s what I’ve done so far. Ladies and gentlemen, live from Poway, California, featuring the Yamaha Motif 6 Big Band, it’s Miller Time! Here’s hoping you’re all…

In the Mood (03:19)

Here’s my rendition of the Joe Garland/Andy Razaf tune, as made famous by Glenn Miller in 1939. Piano, bass, drums, trumpets, trombones and saxes; solos for a tenor sax, alto sax, and trumpet. Finally, you’ll be hearing two of my own ideas. First, I decided on the drum sounds to give my re-creation a rousing introduction. Then, for the call-and-response between saxes, I thought of the alto sax instead of the other tenor sax, since the alto sax would provide me the opportunity to improvise some new melodic ideas.

Little Brown Jug (03:57)

Joseph Winner originally wrote the music and lyrics for this tune in 1869. In 1939, 70 years later, Bill Finegan made his famous instrumental arrangement for Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. Here’s my version of this swing era classic! Piano, bass, drums, guitar, trombones, trumpets and saxes; solos for tenor sax, trombone, trumpet and piano (my idea; Finegan didn’t originally specify a piano solo in his arrangement).

American Patrol (03:22)

Originally a march composed by F. W. Meacham in 1885, Jerry Gray wrote this swing arrangement for Glenn Miller’s orchestra in 1941. Here’s my re-creation of Gray’s arrangement, with my own drum introduction. Piano, bass, drums, trumpets, trombones and saxes; an important part for baritone sax and a solo for trumpet round out the orchestration. Also of note is the use of mutes in the trombones for an airplane effect. I used the French horn part of a sound called “Action Flick” to re-create Jerry Gray’s idea by way of a few punch-ins on the trombone track.

A String of Pearls (03:36)

Composed by Jerry Gray in 1941, with lyrics by Eddie DeLange, Glenn Miller recorded his own instrumental arrangement of Gray’s composition in the same year. Here’s my re-creation of this popular swing tune with my own piano intro. Piano, bass, drums, trumpets, trombones and saxes, plus two tenor sax soloists and a trumpet soloist.

Moonlight Serenade (04:51)

The classic Miller sound (a clarinet lead with four saxes harmonizing underneath it) is associated not with the uptempo and mid-tempo swingers, but with the ballads. Emotionally, the ballads are the hardest for me to re-create: they take the longest because I’m thinking of phrasing and harmony that is so iconic that it must be treated with respect and love for his sound. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, and I’m proud, beyond mere words, of how this one turned out. Glenn Miller composed, arranged and recorded this song in 1939, with lyrics added later by Mitchell Parish (“Stardust” and many others). Here’s my heartfelt re-creation of Miller’s signature song, complete with the famous clarinet-led saxophone section. This will be the final song on the album. The introductory piano solo is my own idea. Piano, bass, drums, clarinet lead, two alto saxes, two tenor saxes, trombones and trumpets.

Another Little Brown Jug (03:15)

The tempo is a bit faster and it contains some sax and brass parts I missed in the version I made last year. Also I did a full track of rhythm guitar, something I hadn’t done in a GarageBand project before, save for a John Pizzarelli-inspired cover of “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home.” Here it is, with 12 tracks! Piano, bass, guitar, drums, two alto saxes, three tenor saxes, trombones (with a solo on the same track), trumpets, and a trumpet solo (on a separate track). This is the version I’ll use for the album.

Tuxedo Junction (03:49)

This song was originally composed by Erskine Hawkins, Bill Johnson and Julian Dash, with lyrics by Buddy Feyne, and first introduced as an instrumental by Hawkins’ orchestra. Glenn Miller’s arrangement was written and recorded in 1939, and released the following year. This instrumental version was one of Miller’s most popular efforts, and is one of my personal favorites. Here is my rendition of this swingin’ arrangement, with my own piano and drum intro. The brief piano solos weren’t written into the music, allowing for each pianist to improvise within their short time slots before the band would re-enter. In addition to these brief spots, The piano has featured much more prominently in this arrangement since the modern Glenn Miller Orchestra’s mid-1970s incarnations, under the musical direction of Jimmy Henderson and most famously Larry O’Brien. Taking after these leaders, I decided to feature more piano ideas than in Miller’s original recording; the piano solos you’re hearing are my own ideas. 12 tracks: bass, guitar, piano, drums, three tenor saxes, two alto saxes, trombones, trumpets, and a solo trumpet.