You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of big bands formed in the 1930s that continue to perform today, long after the storied Big Band Era has faded from national craze to modest footnote in American musical history. Foremost among the survivors is the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the latest incarnation of which was established more than half a century ago in 1956, about a dozen years after Miller's disappearance on a presumably routine flight over the English Channel during World War II.
Nick Hilscher, an admirable singer who first saw and heard the Miller Orchestra when he was eleven years old, is the current music director, having succeeded trombonist Gary Tole in 2012. For In the Mood, his first recording as leader, Hilscher has chosen music from two eras: 1939-42, under Miller's direction, and 1956-66, when drummer Ray McKinley was leading the orchestra. While many of the songs (and even the arrangements) are well-worn, they have stood the test of time for good reason: an easygoing and explicit charm that resonates with listeners of all ages, even those who are no more than passably drawn to jazz in general and big bands in particular.
This is perhaps best exemplified by Joe Garland's "In the Mood," one of the most popular and enduring big-band melodies ever written, one that has transcended changing musical tastes and is performed today not only by the Miller Orchestra but by bands around the world. Miller made his name with that song, as well as with "A String of Pearls," "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" and "Little Brown Jug," among others. They are on the album, along with such lesser-known but no less pleasing tunes as "Runnin' Wild," "Stumbling," "I Got Rhythm," "Whistle Stop," "Oh! So Good" and pianist James Navan's sparkling feature, "Once Upon a Keyboard." Hilscher sings on "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and the lovely "Moonlight Becomes You," Eileen Burns on "I'm Glad There Is You" and "Anything Goes." The Modernaires have given way to the Moonlight Serenaders (Hilscher, Burns, Ian O'Bierne, Nick Schroeder, Kevin Sheehan) on "Kalamazoo" and the closing "Jingle Bells."
The ensemble is as solid as ever, recording quality first-rate, and there are congenial solos along the way by tenors Joel Linscheid and Jon Rees, O'Bierne (alto and baritone), Sheehan (alto and clarinet), alto Nigel Yancey, trumpeters Shroeder, Shawn Williams, Ashley Hall and Jonathan McQuade, trombonist Clay Lucovich and bassist Seth Lewis. A splendid addition to the imperishable Glenn Miller legacy.
Runnin’ Wild; A String of Pearls; Hallelujah I Love Her So; Stumbling; I’m Glad There Is You; I Got Rhythm; (I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo; Little Brown Jug; Anything Goes; Whistle Stop; Oh! So Good; Once Upon a Keyboard; Moonlight Becomes You; In the Mood; Jingle Bells.
Nick Hilscher: music director, vocals; Ashley Hall: trumpet; Nick Schroeder: trumpet; Shawn Williams: trumpet; Jonathan McQuade: trumpet; Kevin Sheehan: alto sax, clarinet; Nigel Yancey: alto sax, clarinet; Joel Linscheid: tenor sax, clarinet; Jon Rees: tenor sax, clarinet; Ian O’Beirne: baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; George Reinert: trombone; John Tyler: trombone; Clay Lucovich: trombone; Jason Bennett: bass trombone; James Navan: piano; Seth Lewis: bass; Holbrook Riles: drums; Eileen Burns: vocals. Moonlight Serenaders — Nick Hilscher, Eileen Burns, Ian O’Beirne, Nick Schroeder, Kevin Sheehan.
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