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SWING

By Michael Levin

Now that Erskine Hawkins, Glenn Miller, Jan Savitt, and Al Donahue have all made "Tuxede Junction" and the tune looks like the hit of the month, a little story telling is in order.

First of all, the tune originated at the Savoy in New York where it was used as a run-off lick--that meaning the phrase used to warn customers that the particular set of tunes is over and to warn the band to come back on the stand. Hawkins took the thing, patterned it after some of the old Lunceford originals and recorded it for Bluebird.

The result was sales that made the Victor people really take his contract seriously. Hawkins, visualizing it as just another fairly successful colored riff tune, had turned the rights over to Lewis Music Company. At this point, Glenn Miller, the biggest thing in bandom at the present time, decided that the arrangement would fit his heavy and intricate style, and persuaded Lewis Music Company (for certain pecuniary considerations) to give him sole broadcasting rights. He rearranged it, slowing it down, and made it a fifteen minute show-piece for his eight-man brass section--muted. Then every night for several weeks, he played it from the Cafe Rouge at the Pennsylvania in New York. Result was tremendous national popularity--so much so that Victor had to call a special recording session for the band and ship it out on a special release schedule. Hawkins by this time had decided that perhaps he had made a mistake, and therefore tried to use the tune for his theme song. Much to his horror, after the first night of so doing, NBC officials informed him that he couldn't use his own tune since only Miller had the right to play it. At this writing, arrangements are being made to get him special permission to use it occasionally.

Interesting to note the difference between the various records. As usual, Glenn Miller's is very cleverly arranged with his typical trick of using his brass section under volume, but with eight part harmony. Only trouble is that the very size and pretentiousness of the arrangement kills it. While his rhythm section is fair, it isn't up to the job of pushing a seventeen piece white band so that it "kicks" the way a good colored band does.

Hawkins' recording is much rougher than Miller's, doesn't have nearly the originality or ideas that the Miller version does, but is better than it for one reason: it has more life and push. It's the old story of a bad colored band usually being better than a good white one when it comes to playing that thing called swing. No matter how out of tune they may be, or how inferior their phrasing, the colored boys have an inate relaxation that while bands can rehearse for twenty years and never get.

Surprisingly enough, the Savitt and Donahue records are not as good as one would expect. The former's shuffle rhythm is uneven and listless and the arrangement not nearly as polished as Savitt's stuff usually is. Donahue's is very clever, but forced and strained in most of its passages. By the way, "Gin Mill Special" on the reverse of the Hawkins is better than all four of the others.

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