Sunday, June 19, 2011

Louis Armstrong and the All Stars: The Glenn Miller Story **UPDATED**

Review # 17
Artist: Louis Armstrong and the All Stars
Title: The Glenn Miller Story
Format: LP
Label: MCA
Year: 1954 (?)
Songs: 10

This the French release of the soundtrack to the 1954 film The Glenn Miller Story, which starred Jimmy Stewart in the title role and also featured Louis Armstrong playing... Louis Armstrong. I haven't seen the film, and in fact didn't even know it existed until I got this record (which was only a about a week ago), but I'm curious now and probably will try to rent it. I've listed the year for this album as 1954 because that's when the movie came out and I haven't been able to find a release date for the record.

Because this is the soundtrack to a film about Glenn Miller, the songs are, not surprisingly, mostly big band renditions of Glenn Miller classics like "In the Mood" and "Pennsylvania 6-500," the latter of which features a slightly jarring telephone sound effect before each chorus. I like Glenn Miller well enough, but he's not one of my all time favorites in the jazz world. Even though I like it, there's something just a little too tame and friendly in the Glenn Miller sound for me to get deeply invested. The songs on this record are mostly nice versions of songs in Miller's repertoire, but they aren't that different from the actual Glenn Miller recordings of these songs.  Very seldom do Louis Armstrong's famous trumpet stylings really come through, and on only two songs, "Basin Street Blues" and "Otchi-Tchor-Ni-Ya" does his unique vocal appear. To be honest, I'm not totally sure how many of these songs Armstrong actually even appears on, and I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't that many.

I don't mean to suggest that this a bad record.  Far from it.  It's both a good record and sort of a cool piece of jazz history. But if you pick this up hoping for something that sounds more like a Louis Armstrong record than a Glenn Miller record, you may find yourself a bit a disappointed or at least surprised.

Also, since this is the French release of this record, I can't read the liner notes and have no idea what they're saying. They might provide some insights on the what role (if any) Armstrong played in recording the songs he's less obvious on, but I'm not sure.

In short, this is a fun jazz record and has a lot of nice cuts on it, but most of it sounds more like a Glenn Miller record than a Louis Armstrong one.

Here's a fun clip from the movie that features  Louis Armstong playing "Basin Street Blues."

Total songs listened: 220

**Update: July 5, 2011**
Over Independence Day weekend, I watched a bunch of movies, including The Glenn Miller Story. While I don't know how accurate the film was to real life, I definitely have a little more respect for Glenn Miller as an artist. The film shows his struggles in the early years of his jazz career, as a man driven to finding a new sound in jazz. It also makes it clear how unusual his arrangements were in his time. The instrumentation he was using was unheard of in his time.  No one had ever tried five saxophones with a clarinet lead before, at least not successfully. The Miller sound is still not my favorite, but I have a new found appreciation for Miller's jazz innovation after seeing the film.  It's also just a good watch, if you like old movies. Recommended.

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