WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO PLAY LIKE EDDIE MILLER?

What a wonderful tenor saxophonist (and occasional clarinetist) the late Eddie Miller was!  Whether he was on records with the Bob Crosby Bobcats or big band, next to Wingy Manone, Bunny Berigan, leading his own bands in New Orleans or New York, he was a bubbling, exuberant delight.

Here’s a small sample:

Miller’s easy pulse, bright tone, and irresistible swing make him sound as if he’s simply floating along — but the illusion of weightlessness is never so simple to maintain. Perhaps seven years earlier, Miller was in his natural habitat — as a sideman in a New Orleans-tinged small band:

Miller is hardly acknowledged these days as a remarkably subtle player.  He was modest, content to make the most of sixteen bars, a man less vigorously ambitious than some of his peers, a fellow who enjoyed the camaraderie of the ensemble (how beautifully his lines weave in and out — he never gets in anyone else’s way) without being a Leader, a Star. Modesty doesn’t always make for name recognition, although Miller was well-known in his Crosby days.

I suspect that the rollicking fluidity of his essential style — Miller never seems to be working hard — caused listeners to underrate him in favor of more dramatic players.  Indeed, as I listened to as much Miller as I could to prepare this blogpost, I thought, “Really, he is the Bing Crosby of the tenor saxophone: everyone would think ‘I could do that,’ without realizing how difficult it is.”

But now.  For a limited time only!  If JAZZ LIVES readers would like to learn the secrets of Eddie Miller’s hot style, these hot licks can be yours for a pittance, half a dollar.

Here’s how.

Study these pages.  Practice every day. EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 004 Let’s look inside! EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 005 I hear you saying, “But I’m not a tenor saxophone player.” EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 006 Everyone of a certain generation copied Louis (no matter what their instrument), then Bird and Diz (likewise).  Couldn’t we start a small Eddie Miller movement? EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 007 With some concentration, I could play those on the piano (if I weren’t so busy blogging). EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 008 I want to hear my friends work these hot licks into their solos. EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 009 It’s not so hard, is it? EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 010 I’d also love to know which of the licks — for the player / historians out there are recognizably the children of other famous saxophonists. EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 011 The book was published in 1940, and I think dreamily of a time and place where young people (or older ones) wanted to grow up to sound like Eddie Miller.  This seems like a distant Paradise now. EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 012Those sharps are beginning to proliferate.
EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 013Courage!
EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 014Just think what possibilities are open to the person who can perform these hot licks: be the life of the party forever!EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 015 And here’s a complete solo chorus, transcribed for us.  (There is a version of this song by the Crosby Bob Cats on YouTube, but I’ve been hesitant to include it, simply because Eddie doesn’t play all thirty-two bars, so it might be a different version.  Research! as we used to say. EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 016 Bregman, Vocco and Conn had more ideas than simply helping everyone to sound like Eddie Miller.  New worlds to conquer: EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 017 “Fellas!  Gals!  Let’s start our very own Swing Band!” EDDIE MILLER PEE WEE RUSSELL 018 One of the pleasures of this blog is the way it permits — encourages! — me to share what I have.

This book cost $2.95 at an antique store a few years ago.  I bought it without hesitating and only thought of it again recently, because of a conversation with a young reedman about the Pee Wee Russell folio.

So now I feel I’ve done my part in making the air full of the light-hearted buoyant sounds of Eddie Miller.

The rest is up to you.  Be sure to report back!

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO PLAY LIKE EDDIE MILLER?

  1. I’ve always adored Eddie Miller’s playing. Here are two favourite ballads…

    ‘Yesterdays’, from 1944:

    And ‘Dream’ (from 1986, would you believe!):

  2. Not sure that second video worked…

  3. Pingback: LESSONS FROM MR. RUSSELL | JAZZ LIVES

  4. Eddie Miller, being what an icon In the Big Band and Jazz player, in the 1940s Vito of Elkhart Indiana had Eddie Miller consulting with them for building Tenor Saxophones.

    I bought a tenor sax my senior year of high school. Was just beautiful, Vito, and etched on rim of the bell was “Eddie Miller” . All these years I thought it was a series produced by Vito. My sacks and I have had a long history. I owned it, competed with it, got a full-ride scholarship in music. I sold it in 1992. In 2006, I started playing again.

    The tenor I had was vibrating in the low register. I was playing for the Philadelphia Pennsport String Band, “Mummer”, which is a high honor in the Philadelphia region. I’ve been looking on eBay for 6 months for a sax with a history but still had a story to tell. When my own my sax in high school and college I had an insurance policy on it, therefore ,I had my serial number. Guess what I ran into on eBay? My sax! I called my husband ask him to pull out the policy to verify the serial number and it was my sax!! The odds of that being already positive against me was already one in a million!

    I had spent years trying to find out about my sax history. Especially, finding out the year it was made and about the Eddy Miller series. During the coronavirus I did more research and ran into a gentleman who had interviewed Eddie Miller for several years. He had never heard never heard of a “Eddie Miller” series.he did a bunch of personal research, including contacting a friend that he knows that worked with in the Elkhart Vito company during the 1940s.

    What I found out I almost fell out of my chair when I got the email! I found out that the actual sax that I have owned, sold, repurchased and built was not another owned by Eddie Miller himself! I own not only my own history, but also a history of a great talented man! The sax was already priceless to me! However, I own a piece of a legendary history within the Big Band and Jazz Band community! Eddie Miller, was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Band hall of fame in 1998.

    Yeah, the saxophone won’t be leaving my clutches in my lifetime ever again!

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