America's Big Band performs at legendary blues club
April 24, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Jazz Ambassadors performed for a packed house at Blues Alley jazz club in historic Georgetown, April 16.
The performance was part of the "Big Band Jam!," a two-week event where local jazz bands perform in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month. The Big Band Jam!, now in its ninth year, educates students and community members about the Capital's unique jazz heritage and current jazz scene, according to the Blues Alley Jazz Society.
It was a unique experience for the Jazz Ambassadors, who are normally traveling the nation in April as part of their spring tour. This year, however, sequestration and restricted travel have forced America's Big Band to refocus efforts within a 100-mile radius of their home base on Fort Meade.
"The Jazz Ambassadors had an awesome night, coming out of the gates with the hard-driving swinger 'Basie Power' and finishing up the 90-minute set with 'America the Beautiful,' featuring Marva Lewis on vocals -- an emotional ride from start to finish," said Sgt. 1st Class John Altman, Jazz Ambassadors trumpet player. "I am just so thankful to serve my country in this capacity and to feel the emotion involved with the intersection of service, music, and history."
Twenty seven years earlier, Altman's father, Hank, was a technical supervisor for the CBS Records team that documented Wynton Marsalis' "Live at Blues Alley". The album went on to be the best selling CD recorded at Blues Alley, according to Harry Schnipper, executive director of Blues Alley.
"Growing up as a young trumpeter and hearing this performance on record (yes, vinyl) was an awesome experience, and to then return to the same venue, that many years later as a professional, was an even bigger thrill!" said Altman. "I was in contact with both my dad, and Wynton, before the performance - which heightened the experience all the more … Wynton thanked me for the kind words related to his 1986 quartet performance, and to say hi to Hank."
Following their 90-minute concert, the Jazz Ambassadors performed three encores. "We could have played all night if it were physically possible," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 William McCulloch, director of the Jazz Ambassadors.
"I was proud to represent the Army in such a prestigious venue," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Buckley, Jazz Ambassadors element leader. "Blues Alley's configuration creates a unique and intimate connection between the performers and the audience. We were overwhelmed with their positive response to our show."
International Jazz Day is April 30 and Schnipper has already requested the Jazz Ambassadors to perform at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage during an international broadcast. For the Jazz Ambassadors' latest scheduling information, visit www.ArmyFieldBand.com.