This past Monday, the Derby Dinner Playhouse came alive with the sounds of some of the most classic big band jazz ever played - The Glenn Miller Orchestra. In town for one day only, the Orchestra played a variety of classic tunes written for the original group back in the 1940’s - from Moonlight Serenade to In The Mood, the band ran through the whole gamut in an hour-long show that flew by faster than a train to Chattanooga.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra came back together in 1956, having broken up after the untimely death of Glenn Miller in World War II, and they’ve been playing hard ever since, touring an amazing 48 weeks out of the year. With that kind of grueling schedule, it would be easy to understand if the band had an off night, but they hit every note just the way it was written over seventy years ago. Band leader Nick Hilscher directed the ensemble amazingly, flawlessly playing the role of a big band leader. His mannerisms, dress style, smooth vocals and enthusiasm captured every bit of the classic big band director - indisputably a perfect fit for the role.
Vocalist Natalie Angst was the bands featured female vocalist, and she hit every note just as well as Hilscher - if the band leader needs to have the greasy feel of a smooth jazz man, then no big band could be without a sultry singer right along side him - her vocals were perfect, and her look was flawlessly classic and vampy.
To listen to jazz recordings from the era is a thing of beauty - all the instruments harmonize perfectly, and the band feels like a well oiled machine. Yet an old recording can only sound so good, and I know that I’ve always desired to hear the four part harmonies of Pennsylvania 6500 in person, and I was definitely rewarded for the wait. Every note was perfect, and if I closed my eyes it was like I was right there in a club from the forties, surrounded by khaki uniforms, double breasted suits, fedoras and women in some of the classiest dresses ever made. The Glenn Miller orchestra was amazing - I only hope they make a stop back through town soon.
Photo courtesy of The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra