Jerry Gray & His Orchestra

Ex-Glenn Miller Men: Live from the Hollywood Palladium (1950)

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Thankfully, Ex-Glenn Miller Men is not a pack of Glenn Miller clones coming to infiltrate your neighborhood, trombones in hand. But it is the title of this awkwardly named Jazz Hour compilation of live Hollywood Palladium broadcasts by the band more properly known as Jerry Gray & His Band of the Day. After getting out of the Army and finally free of the depressing job of having to replace Glenn Miller in the AEF Band, ace arranger Jerry Gray organized a new band of his own consisting of several Miller alumni augmented with some top-flight jazz musicians, including drummer Dave Tough. This band lasted long enough to make six sides for Mercury, but then disappeared, and likewise Gray himself dropped out for a time afterward.

When he returned to music in 1949, the big-band biz was all but dead; however, bands performing in a "Miller manner" were still a marketable commodity, as demonstrated by Ralph Flanagan and the popularity of his "neo-Miller"-sounding orchestra. If anyone had a right to share the wealth in terms of a Miller revival it was Gray -- after all, the "Miller manner" had been his manner as well, Gray having drafted most of the original charts that constituted Miller's greatest successes. So, he commenced with Jerry Gray & His Band of the Day, which debuted in late 1949 and managed to survive until about 1960. This band didn't necessarily perform sets wholly made up of a relentless parade of Miller favorites, but it did have Gray's charts on all the ones that they needed to know, and played them frequently.

This disc is taken from four different Hollywood Palladium remotes, dating from August 6, 20, 27, and September 3, 1950, with the lion's share of the tracks coming from the September date. It appears that despite the title "Ex-Glenn Miller Men," these remotes manage to capture the Gray band when its usual percentage of Miller alumni was at an uncharacteristic low point -- only Willie Schwartz, Jimmy Priddy, and Johnny Best are present outside of Gray himself.

Standout tracks here are the Gray originals, including a lively, obviously post-Miller number entitled "Crew Cut" that Gray had first recorded for Decca the previous year. The "Anvil Chorus" here is presented in a nearly completely different arrangement than the famous version made with Miller. "Nearly," though, in that alternate instruments are substituted for familiar ones in the expected run of choruses; however, the ride-out chorus is wholly new, and it is impressive. "A String of Pearls" is similarly dusted off and given new, sometimes rather boppish surface features. Among the remainder, both "Passage Interdit" (which the radio announcer, comically, can't pronounce) and "Caribbean Clipper" are worth mentioning. The band sounds okay generally, though spots of loose intonation suggests that some musicians' elbows were doing a fair amount of "bending" backstage at these dates.

Unfortunately, the low points on Ex-Glenn Miller Men far outnumber the bright spots. The sound of this production suggests that the source recordings were monitored off-air, and the whole disc is characterized by a type of gritty distortion which gets better here and worse there, but never completely goes away. The vocalist here is Tommy Traynor, who appears to have been a Johnny Desmond wannabe, although in comparison to "The Creamer" it seems that Traynor's cream had curdled, at least on these dates. The post-war Gray band did have something to offer, and made a staggering number of commercial studio recordings for Mercury, Decca, and Liberty starting in 1946 and running through the whole of the 1950s. A couple of collections of these would represent the "Band of the Day" in an ideal world; however, none are known to be available on CD. Nevertheless, there are at least decent alternate options in terms of broadcast recordings on the Gray band of the '50s, and these should be exercised well before partaking of the menu served by the Ex-Glenn Miller Men.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:29
2 3:09
3 2:46
4 2:52
5 3:36
feat: Jerry Gray
7 3:38
8 2:32
9 2:53
10 3:00
11 2:42
12 2:53
13 2:54
14 2:58
15 2:18
16 3:17
17 2:38
18 2:49
blue highlight denotes track pick