On April 3, Oswego State was treated to the U.S. Army’s Jazz Ambassadors from the U.S. Army Field Band. In this current tour, from March 11 to April 16, the Ambassadors are attending SUNY schools, theaters and high schools.
This concert was very kind to the students of the music department. Earlier in the day, four members from the band, Sgt. 1st Class Bradford Danho, tenor saxophone, Sgt. 1st Class Liesl Whitaker, trumpet, Staff Sgt. Sean Casey, bass trombone and Master Sgt. Tim Young, piano, attended the school’s Jazz Ensemble rehearsal and practiced with their respective sections.
Music majors Alison Cramer, trombone, and Corey King, trumpet, as well as accounting major and economics minor Derek Holden, saxophone, were given the opportunity to play with the Ambassadors on a piece called “Lilly’s Song,” which was arranged by Staff Sgt. Paul White for his daughter.
The fourth student, Cheryl Goewey, had a deeper connection to the Ambassadors. Goewey joined the Army in September 2007 and served for the Army playing flute in Fort Drum 10th Mountain, as well the South Korea 8th. Goewey said she loves the Ambassadors and the various Army bands because it “shows that soldiers are people too, and it’s a great morale booster for the other soldiers.”
Goewey was also reunited with Colonel Timothy J. Holtan, the commander of the Ambassadors. Holtan served as Goewey’s first commander in the Army.
The Jazz Ambassadors’ concerts feature a wide range of jazz sub-genres. This particular program was Holtan’s favorite because it featured the most soloists. The concert began with the band playing an up-tune (a fast piece) to introduce their commander. Shortly following that, featured vocalist Master Sgt. Marva Lewis came on stage to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The first piece was entitled “Flight of the Foo Birds,” a piece written by Neal Hefti for Count Basie and his orchestra. A swinging up-tune, the piece began with a piano solo by Master Sgt. Young, and moved into full ensemble. It also featured Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Fox and Master Sgt. Andrew Layton on alto saxophone, as well as a solo for Master Sgt. Michael Johnston.
Following this number, Holtan gave a brief introduction, as well as prepared statement dedicating the concert to the victims and the families of the recent shooting at Fort Hood.
The next two pieces were fast big band blues charts. The first was a Duke Ellington alto sax feature for Layton, “Jeep’s Blues,” which rose to fame after a performance at the famed 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. The second was a bluesy chart called “The Study Was Done,” by Carl Murph. Both pieces featured very exciting playing and tight blues harmonies.
Lewis would then take the stage for three songs. The first was a pleasant big band version of “Hello, Dolly!” a song that rose to fame after Louis Armstrong’s Grammy-nominated 1965 version. Lewis showed strong jazz vocal technique, giving the song a slight bebop feel. She then played “Feelin’ Good,” originally by Nina Simone, and, to wrap up the vocal pieces was a big band arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s Motown hit, “How Sweet It Is.” The arrangement was a combination of jazz, pop, and rock Motown. The song really took off after a screaming, shredding solo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Epley on guitar.
During the break, Holtan made some announcements regarding their tour, their Facebook page and gave thanks to their sponsors. He also recognized other soldiers that were formerly under his command, including Goewey.
The next piece was a feature for the trombone section, an arrangement, “Sunny Side of the Street.” The section switched smoothly and effortlessly between playing in unison and in harmony and featured trombone solos from Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Adams and Staff Sgt. Luke Brimhall.
Then, the student performers joined together for “Lilly’s Song,” accompanied by a drumroll by Sgt. 1st Class Todd Harrison. It was a smooth, grooving Latin piece that featured a baritone saxophone solo by Staff Sgt. Dustin Mollick.
In a fun treat for the audience, the majority of the band took a break when the Jazz Ambassadors became a Dixieland group called the “Erie Canal Ramblers,” which saw a rhythm section and a trombone, trumpet, and clarinet took the stage. The piece was a fun stylistic shift as the audience got to experience soloing in a pre-bebop style.
When the rest of the band returned, they played what Holtan said was his favorite part of the show—a jazz medley of all the Armed Forces’ songs, during which veterans and soldiers stood and saluted. The Ambassadors ended the concert with Lewis again taking the stage to sing “Proud To Be An American.”