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Ray Miller: Red Hot Henry Brown

March 29, 2010

Ray Miller's orchestra in 1923, from http://www.redhotjazz.com.

Ray Miller and His Orchestra
Red Hot Henry Brown

Recorded in 1925

Jazz legend tells us that Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines were thrown out of a theater once for cheering the band too loudly. This is the band they were cheering. By any measurement, it’s a great band, so it’s all the more surprising that you’ve probably never heard of it.

Part of the reason is the early era. Ray Miller’s band was at its peak before the electrical process was introduced, so the best performances (like this one) are preserved only on acoustical records. Ray Miller himself had faded into obscurity by the 1930s. Unlike, for example, Ben Pollack, he did not have an inexhaustible talent for putting great bands together. Apparently he got really lucky just this once; his later bands were okay sometimes, but never anything like this.

The Wolverines supposedly reserved their loudest cheers for Miff Mole, the jazz legend often given credit for founding the art of solo jazz trombone. (The trombone was used almost exclusively for counterpoint in early jazz bands.) Mole gets a chorus to himself here. Another instantly recognizable soloist, and one who would go on to be Bix Beiderbecke’s closest musical associate, is Frankie Trumbauer on the C-melody sax.

So here is Ray Miller’s band at its peak in one of the group’s hottest performances. We can only imagine what this band must have sounded like live, but even this acoustical recording is enough to make us cheer along with the Wolverines.

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From → Jazz

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