Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Finally, Some Props for the Military

It seems like the press is incapable of giving the American military credit for anything, but Harvey Siders’ Big Band CD review round-up in last month’s Jazz Times gave props to Three Shades of Blue from the Navy’s Commodores Jazz Ensemble. Siders praised the CD for its “sound as big as an aircraft carrier,” but lamented the fact that it is not commercially available, writing: “‘The recording is limited to “recruiting, educational activities and troop morale usage’ by the Dept. of Defense. Hey, what about civilian jazz-lovers’ morale?” At least there are a number of samples available online, and he’s right, they are quite good. The originals are surprisingly strong and textured, like “Revell’s Reverie” and “The Green Umbrella.”

The American military has played an important and under-appreciated role in jazz history. Diverse musicians, like Dave Brubeck and Albert Ayler received early experience playing in military bands. Legendary band leaders like Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw started the tradition of American military swing bands when they enlisted during WWII. It’s good to see the Navy band get some credit for keeping the tradition alive.