With all the back-and-forth about Maynard Ferguson’s band and outreach, music ed and so on, I wonder why the military bands are never mentioned? These ensembles are comprised of some of the best players and composers/arrangers on the planet and probably do more to keep students interested in jazz than most others. Granted, their concerts are free (a competive advantage), but it’s nice to see some of our tax dollars going into worthy endeavors.
Dennis E. Kahle
The armed forces jazz bands are not mentioned often enough. That’s true. But, “never?” Here’s part of a recent Rifftides posting.
Buddy DeFranco, approaching his eighty-fourth birthday, played in concert with the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble. Made up of sergeants of various stripes and led by Chief Warrant Officer Charles Vollherbst, the Blues (named for their dress uniforms) is one of the best big jazz bands at work, military or civilian. It has a stompin’ rhythm section, impressive brass and wind sections, fine soloists, and arrangers with skill and imagination. Staff Sergeant Liesl Whitaker’s lead trumpet work places her among the best in that demanding, punishing craft.
To read the whole thing, go here.
John Birchard says
One of the pleasures of living in the Washington, D.C. area (there ARE some), is that the three main military jazz bands make their homes here.
One of the better concerts I attended this past year was at George Washington University, where the Airmen of Note, th U-S Air Force’s jazz group, played host to the great guitarist Pat Martino. The band was inspired by Martino’s presence and the guitarist clearly dug being surrounded by such a talented big band, an experience I expect he doesn’t get to enjoy every day. And, of course, the icing on these GI jazz “cakes”: not a penny is charged for admission.
The Army Blues, the Navy’s Commodores and the Airmen all present periodic concerts in the DC area at attractive sites like the U-S Capitol steps, the Navy Memorial and various local parks, in addition to their tours around the country.
Hard to say which of the three bands is “best”. Each of them is worth hearing any time you get the opportunity.
I got linked to this page trying to find out where and when Maynard Ferguson guest-played with the US Army band. It would have been in the early 50’s, which I guess is the Korean war.
I had an arranger/sax player boyfriend who was in the Army Band and he told me Maynard rehearsed without a shirt and when he hit the high notes his stomach turned blue.