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.
Study these pages. Practice every day. Let’s look inside! I hear you saying, “But I’m not a tenor saxophone player.” 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? With some concentration, I could play those on the piano (if I weren’t so busy blogging). I want to hear my friends work these hot licks into their solos. It’s not so hard, is it? I’d also love to know which of the licks — for the player / historians out there are recognizably the children of other famous saxophonists. 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. Those sharps are beginning to proliferate.
Just think what possibilities are open to the person who can perform these hot licks: be the life of the party forever! 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. Bregman, Vocco and Conn had more ideas than simply helping everyone to sound like Eddie Miller. New worlds to conquer: “Fellas! Gals! Let’s start our very own Swing Band!” 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!