Yes, this is the same “world famous orchestra” that’s been touring almost continually since 1938 – or 1937, if you want to count Glenn Miller’s first unsuccessful band (or even 1935, when Miller made his first recordings as a bandleader). Since the founder, Miller himself, disappeared in 1944, the The Glenn Miller Orchestra has been practically the first and certainly the most durable of all so-called “ghost” bands. Admittedly, there have been long stretches wherein the band seems to have given up the ghost, but there were also inspired leaders over the decades, most especially Tex Beneke, Ray McKinley, Buddy DeFranco, and now, the brilliant singer Nick Hilscher, who took over as director in 2012. Under Mr. Hilscher’s baton, the band has hit a new creative peak, and that’s not only because the leader is enough of a scholar to resurrect a lot of excellent music that hasn’t been heard much over the years (such as Bill Finegan’s remarkable but unrecorded arrangement of “Song of the Bayou”) in addition to such beloved and unavoidable warhorses as “In the Mood” and “Moonlight Serenade.” But also, Mr. Hilscher is an outstanding baritone who croons in a style wholly authentic to the period, the era of Dick Haymes, Miller’s own Johnny Desmond, and the young Sinatra – his singing has now become an ineffable part of the band’s sonic identity, its aural “brand.” The official Miller band hasn’t played within Manhattan city limits since the centennial 15 years ago, and, hence, I’m actually considering attending both shows on Saturday October 19.
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