MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
The 2010 edition of the Marine Corps All-Star Jazz Band formed at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany April 2 for four days of practice prior to leaving on a week-long tour that took them from local venues to Atlanta and to a Florida jazz festival.
To become a member of the jazz band, each applicant from the ‘best of the best’ among the Marine Corps’ 12 bands around the world, was required to record mandatory auditions and submit them for judging.
“Each person who wanted to compete for a position in the jazz band sent in recordings of their auditions,” said Staff Sgt. Jordon Dixon, assistant small ensemble leader and sound engineering noncommissioned officer in charge, Albany Marine Band. “Our headquarters listened to each one and made the final selections for the 15 positions in the group.”
The band had four days to practice before going on the road for five days to perform at local and regional venues. They also made appearances in Atlanta, including a live performance on a local television station, and at the Lakeside Jazz Festival in Port Orange, Fla.
Not all Marine musicians could apply to become part of the jazz band due to prior commitments from their home band.
“That’s why I’m playing in the band,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim Ford, Headquarters Marine Corps, who works in public affairs and is also a band officer. “There were three trumpet players that I would have liked to see in the band, but they couldn’t get away from their local commitments.”
Concerts performed by the jazz band last approximately an hour and include selections from classic jazz bands, but band members may customize part of the arrangement. The group also conducts training sessions at the schools where they perform and work to create interest in music and the Marine Corps.
“We also have a big band arrangement of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ which is a lot of fun,” Ford added.
Being a good musician alone wasn’t sufficient for an invitation to join the band, sight reading was critical because the musicians had so little time to practice before performing together in public. The group also produced a compact disk of their music.
“The one thing that’s required is to be able to sight read the music,” said Chief Warrant Officer Edward Hayes, band officer, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. “It’s important because we have an extremely limited amount of time to get things together. Before a recording session, we may play a chart maybe five times as a group. That’s why it’s important to have people who can get it right the first time they see the music.”
Hayes said the ability to sight read music usually increases with experience.
“Sight reading capability is a demanding skill, and generally, the more experienced you are, the more situations you’ve seen and it’s easier for you,” explained Hayes, a former instructor at the Armed Forces School of Music.
The electric bass player in the Jazz Band was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christian E. Flores, band officer, Albany Marine Band.
“When I was here in the Albany Marine Band in a former life as a player, I was a tuba and bass player,” Flores said.
He saw the talent selected for the band as some of the best in the world.
“These are some of the best musicians in America, not just the Marine Corps, so it’s an honor to be part of an organization that comes together here in one location to do what they do,” Flores explained.
Marine bands may be expected to perform traditional music of a military nature, but the history of military bands included jazz as well.
“If you look at the history of military music, you’ll see that some of the greatest music ever made was arguably during the 1940s with Glenn Miller, one of the most famous military musicians ever,” Flores said. “He is synonymous with ‘military musician,’ so it’s a great thing to be able to bring that back to life and represent military music in that manner.”