CABARET FESTIVAL – The Glen Miller Orchestra – The Festival Theatre – 2K

By Tom Eckert


The Glen Miller Orchestra, a Goliath from an era past. As a young jazz lover I must admit I was glad to have the chance to see this band (or at least the band ten or so iterations away from the original 1938 lineup). A sentiment, it would seem, that was shared by much of the septuagenarian population of Adelaide judging by the packed Festival Theatre.

With a swathe of the classics; Chatananga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 65000, Gershwin’s original Rhapsody in Blue and even an upbeat swing of Waltzing Matilda – the band certainly played to the la vie en rose their adoring fans apply to nostalgia with abandon as affirmed by the appreciative murmur that went through the hall every time the title of the next chart was mentioned. Whilst an indispensable part of our musical history, I do have mixed feelings about the strong culture of World War Two fetishism, here propagated by some very talented dancers from The Broadway Swing Dancers, a bright-eyed bushy-tailed quartet that were all red lipstick, military uniforms and kicking legs.

The band itself was solid and the charts played to the tune of the original recordings to a T. Even the solos I’ve listened to that many times. Wendy Smith and Mark Kopitzke were a nice addition for the vocal charts, again, faithful to the originals, when Mr. Kopitzke opened his pipes, if you closed your eyes you could almost be sure Frank Sinatra was back from the dead.

I have to say that this however was the biggest detraction from the show. As big as a big band is, it’s not going to fill a theatre that seats thousands without a little help. I say it sounded like the recordings because it genuinely sounded the same. Due to the huge requirements for amplification the mixing desk had it balanced just as on the records, beautifully, with the vocals just a touch overpowering. As a result, lost are the shivers you get from the live horns, the clever rhythms and the out-there passing note over a chord change. They could have literally piped the CD’s through the speakers and I would not have known the difference except for the fact it felt like the tempos had all been brought back just ever so slightly. This meant the whole act felt flat, it lacked the energy and vigor of the old days. This was the music that used to get the youth of the world hot and heavy and now it just feels like it’s going the same way as its main audience. Slowing down, taking it easy and resting on its laurels. Big band jazz needs to keep in mind its original purpose and not think itself safe just because it’s performing to a full house of thousands of its faithful.

Just because you can take the jazz hall out of the band, doesn’t mean you should take the band out of the jazz hall.

Kryztoff Rating: 2K

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