Alton Glenn Miller (March 1, 1904 -- December 15, 1944) was an American trombone player and orchestrator. He created one of the best swing orchestras (late 1930s - early 1940s), the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The name Glenn Miller became the epitome of big band jazz for several generations. In the Soviet Union, it was associated with the appearance of the film "Sun Valley Serenade" on cinema screens. It was the first breakthrough of American jazz in our country.
Glenn Miller was born in a small town in Iowa. By the time he was four, he was playing different melodies on the small home organ and singing songs in English, Russian and Yiddish, all languages spoken in his family. At the age of fourteen, he became the owner of his first trombone and from then on, his rise to the musical Olympus began. After high school, Glenn entered the University of Colorado. However, he hardly ever went to lectures, since he devoted all his spare time to going to concerts and auditions. In 1926, the youngster squeezed-out of university and took up music. He began studying musical composition and was mentored by Joseph Schillinger, a professor at the New York School of Art. The teacher assisted the famous composer and pianist George Gershwin, as well as clarinetist Benny Goodman, to grow professionally. In the 1920-30s Miller worked as a trombonist and orchestrator with Ben Pollack and Red Nicholls, scored orchestrations for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, where he then appeared as a soloist, and recorded with Benny Goodman.
In 1937, the musician realized his long-held dream and formed his own orchestra. Despite the expectations placed on it, the orchestra did not generate much excitement and musicians had to be disbanded. January 1938 was the second birth of the orchestra. From the very beginning, Miller realized that a unique sound had to be developed and decided to bring the clarinet and saxophone parts together in unison. Wilbur Schwartz, who played so convincingly and precisely that subsequent imitators were never able to adopt this skill and manner of performance, assisted him. The music of the orchestra delighted the audience. All over the world, cloned big bands were emerging that followed professionals in playing musical instruments. The prestigious Glen Island Casino, New Jersey, had a continuous radio broadcast. The Glenn Miller Orchestra was invited by the casino management to perform and spent the entire summer season of the 1938th there. The popularity of the orchestra, supplemented by reviews on a series of radio shows the big band ran, promoting Chesterfield cigarettes, grew. All this earned Miller a contract with the major record company RCA. Between September 1938 and July 1942, the Glenn Miller Orchestra recorded over two hundred songs. These included such Miller classics as "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", "Tuxedo Junction", "The American Patrol", "Kalamazoo" and "Little Brown Jug". The Glenn Miller Orchestra signature song was the "Moonlight Serenade", eagerly awaited by fans at every concert.
In fact, it was the most sought-after and highest-paid jazz orchestra in the world, from whose repertoire the dances were born, among others. For example, the jive is one of the competitive dances at any dance competition. The "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" tune became its musical base. This song from “Sun Valley Serenade” even has its own museum, which is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The name comes from an American Indian language, probably Cherokee, 'chu chu' being the heavy sighs of a steam locomotive.
The band had gained huge popularity that did not fade over the years. This was primarily due to the multi-genre basis of the tunes played. The repertoire of the orchestra ranges from cheerful, upbeat Broadway tunes to self-composed lyrical ballads -- the ballads that created the style of the orchestra, defining its aesthetic direction.
After the US entered the war with Japan, Glenn Miller decided to volunteer for the Navy. However, he was over age (he was 38 at the time) and his application was rejected. Miller then wrote a letter to the Ministry of Defense in August 1942 with the idea of setting up an army band to work with the troops, and the proposal was accepted. At the height of his fame and success, Glenn Miller disbanded his renowned band. On September 27, 1942, his orchestra gave its last concert in New Jersey.
Having dreamed of organizing a military band, Glenn Miller worked hard on the idea. Moreover, in June 1943 his “Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band” of 45 musicians became a reality. Miller's big band performed on the BBC, played for the troops, and took part in a series of propaganda radio programs for the German troops (jazz was banned in Nazi Germany).
The intensity of his work was astounding. Miller wrote in a letter to his wife that in one month his orchestra performed 35 times for the troops and participated in 40 radio programmes.
The death of the musician was early and unexpected. The war was nearing its end. Major Glenn Miller had to travel to Paris to prepare for his orchestra's Christmas performance at Olympia Hall. On December 15, 1944, he flew to France in a small single-engine plane, a ‘UC-64 Norseman’. The fog was very thick and the plane he flew in never reached the French coast -- its trail got lost somewhere over the Channel. Neither the musician's body nor the wreckage of the plane were found. For nine days, there was no press coverage, but when news of the tragedy broke out, one by one theories about the death of the great musician became public. Glenn Miller's death is still considered one of the many unexplained mysteries in the World War II history.
It was not until 1999 that the most credible version of Miller's death emerged. A possible cause of Miller's death was attributed to the pilot of the light transport aircraft error. There is even documentary evidence - a flight log as well as the testimony of a pilot named Fred Shaw. This material was presented in a documentary called “Glenn Miller's Last Flight”.
Miller was married to Helen Burger, whom he met while studying at the University of Colorado; the maestro had adopted son Stephen and daughter Jonnie Dee.
Today, the revived Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Will Salden, successfully tours in Europe performing works by Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Elvis Presley and other renowned geniuses. In addition to the main orchestra, there are two official clones: Glenn Miller Orchestra, run by Jan Slottenas, and Glenn Miller Orchestra UK, under the direction of Ray McVay. The Will Salden Orchestra tours in Russia with prominent musicians -- Kyle Simpson, Jason Bennett, Nathaniel Schaefer and others.