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THE TEX BENEKE ORCHESTRA

The Glenn Miller Formula
Part Three

SOUNDS OF YESTER YEAR
DSOY878

 

 

1. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm [1:54]
2. That Lucky Old Sun [2:35]
3. The Eyes of Texas [2:21]
4. They Say [3:08]
5. Look Up [2:47]
6. Night and Day [2:25]
7. The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi [2:48]
8. Largo [From the New World Symphony] [2:38]
9. Festivals [2:12]
10. Elmer's Tune [3:19]
11. Peanut Vendor [1:56]
12. Things Ain't What They Used To Be [1:37]
13. Blue Rain [1:56]
14. Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen [3:22]
15. My Ideal [0:55]
16. Lazy River [3:21]
17. Riverboat Shuffle [2:46]
18. The Way You Look Tonight [3:04]
19. La Rosita [2:46]
20. El Cumbanchero [2:17]
21. Shanghai Calculations [3:24]
22. Senorita [2:43]
23. Georgia On My Mind [3:13]
24. Blues In the Night [2:05]
25. Sunrise Serenade [3:03]
26. Cindy Lou [2:58]
27. Yesterdays Roses [2:34]
28. Who'll Be the Next One? (To Cry Over You) [1:49]

The Tex Beneke Orchestra (Bobby Nichols, Joe Ferrante, Buddy Yeager, Whitey Thomas (trumpet); Jim Harwood, Paul Tanner, Dick Gould, Bob Pring (trombone); John Graas (French horn); Tex Beneke ( tenor sax and vocals); Sol Libero (alto sax and clarinet); Johnny White (alto sax); Gene Cipriano, Ed Gerlach (tenor sax); Teddy Lee (alto and bari sax); Art Wagner (piano); Mike Bryan (guitar); Cliff Hills (bass); Jack Sperling (drums); Glenn Douglas, The Moonlight Serenaders (vocals))
rec. New York, NY, Autumn 1949 and February 1950 [71:56]

 

During World War II, Tex Beneke became a star with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and so entwined with that group that he eventually became the leader from Miller's death in 1944 until the end of 1950. The Glenn Miller Formula albums are collections of recordings that chronicle the early recordings of The Tex Beneke Orchestra, where string sections are replaced with French horn but otherwise arrangements are still very much in the Glenn Miller mould. While Beneke was soon to form his own sound, many of these recordings are a continuation of Miller's legacy. In fact, Largo and Elmer's Tune are barely discernible from earlier Glenn Miller recordings.

There are several outstanding performances on the disc. Festivals by Neal Hefti showcases some of the most interesting solos and virtuosic playing in the collection, sounding more like a Kansas City Jump band than a 1940s dance orchestra. Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen, featuring Bobby Nichols and Tex Beneke, offers some of the best of the polished, foxtrot friendly music recorded.

One can see though that Tex Beneke was ready to expand his sound beyond the foxtrot friendly swing that he had made him famous. This disc is arranged chronologically and when the listener encounters Riverboat Shuffle, Shanghai Calculations, and Se¤orita, recorded as Tex was starting to separate himself from the Glenn Miller estate, it's evident that he's experimenting with the big band sound in ways that the ghost of Glenn Miller wouldn't always endorse. In truth though, while the refined sounds of tracks like The Way You Look Tonight are tight and dance friendly, they would also be nearly anachronistic by 1950. They offer a welcome bit of relief from the older arrangements.

The performances are consistently very good. Paul Tanner's trombone solos on Blue Is The Night and Se¤orita are outstanding. The Moonlight Serenaders are as solid a vocal unit as any assembled during the Big Band era, making Elmer's Tune, Look Up, and Cindy Lou all stand out. Many of the ballads rely on Glenn Douglas's big, warbling baritone vocals, though Tex himself takes a couple of turns at the microphone on Look Up and The Eyes of Texas. While Largo (from The New World Symphony) feels oddly placed in the running order, as it would normally be performed later in the evening as a dance set wound down to give the dancers a break, it is a very good example of the tight ensemble playing for which both Miller's and Beneke's orchestras were renowned.

The primary downside is recording quality. Many of the tracks have clearly lost fidelity in the intervening years. Some, like Georgia On My Mind, sound as if they were recorded from old vinyl, not a master. Some older listeners may find the pops and bottom-heavy fidelity familiar as a memory from their own childhood, and there is only so much one can expect from such elderly recordings, but each individual track seems to have been re-mastered differently. Some tracks simply sound much more worn. It's a shame; it would almost have been better to have one consistently mediocre sound throughout. As it stands, it draws attention to the poorer sound quality of tracks like Who'll Be The Next One? (To Cry Over You).

If you are a fan of the big band era though, this is your kind of album. The performances are quite good throughout. With nostalgia recordings, sound fidelity is often lacking. The recording media simply wasn't as good or as resilient to the effects of time as modern technology. The Glenn Miller Formula showcases the pinnacle of Tex Beneke's shepherding of Miller's legacy just as he is finally removing himself from it.

Patrick Gary



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