The U.S. Army Blues was officially formed in 1972 but has its roots back in 1942 as the Army Dance Band entertaining soldiers and civilians in battle zones during WWII. With appearances at jazz festivals from Monterey to Montreaux, and jazz clubs from Birdland to Blues Alley, it has evolved into the leading jazz ensemble of the U.S. Army, and one of the few remaining full-time big bands in America today.
This release, recorded at historic Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2010, features sixteen different soloists and seven composers from the eighteen-piece band. It also pays tribute to the legacy of Washington, DC native, Duke Ellington. Enjoy and keep jazz — America’s only indigenous art form — alive!
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INTRODUCTION · 0:48
MAIN STEM · 2:50 Composer/arranger: Duke Ellington
Main Stem was first recorded in 1942 by its legendary composer and Washington, DC, native, Duke Ellington, who limited the piece to three minutes to just fit on the 78-RPM record of the day. This hard-swinging, raucous version features many short instrumental solos from guys within the Army Blues.
DANCE OF THE STARGAZER · mp3 11:42 Composer/arranger: SFC Joseph Henson
This original composition by Sergeant First Class Joseph Henson is a musical representation of a curious mind watching in wonder as the nighttime sky puts on its show. Written in a contemporary style with a lilting 3/4 time signature, the tune elicits a joyful mood created by rich harmonies and the sensitive rhythm section interplay. Highlights include solos by Sergeant Major (ret.) Jim Roberts on guitar, an extended drum solo by Master Sergeant Steve Fidyk (pron: fidd-ick), and the composer on tenor sax.
NOT ON THE BUS · mp3 8:20 Composer/arranger: SGM Matt Niess (pron. neese)
This fast-moving modal tune is reminiscent of John Coltrane’s “Impressions,” with a nod to Miles Davis’ “So What.” Written by Sergeant Major Matt Niess, this chart provides plenty of solo room for Master Sergeant Graham Breedlove’s fiery trumpet, and shows off the composer’s stellar trombone technique with intense background figures provided by the brass section. If you are looking for high energy, this one is up your alley!
STARDUST · 5:14 Composer: Hoagy Carmichael | Arranger: Tommy Newsom
Originally written by famed arranger, Tommy Newsom, for Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band, this version of Hoagy Carmichael’s classic features Army Blues lead trumpet, Sergeant First Class Mark Wood. In this classic “trumpet king” arrangement, Wood offers his own interpretation of Stardust with warm vibrato and spectacular high-register control.
OGONILAND · mp3 10:55 Composer/arranger: SGM Kenny Rittenhouse
Ogoniland is based on a Nigerian folk song and written as a tribute to the Ogoni people. Opening with the simple folk song, it seamlessly morphs into a modern, straight ahead jazz adaptation with a distinct small-group feel. Featured soloists are Sergeant Major Dave Brown on baritone sax, Sergeant Major Rittenhouse on trumpet, and Sergeant First Class Antonio Orta on soprano sax.
BAYOU FAREWELL · mp3 7:20 Composer/arranger: MSG Graham Breedlove
Louisiana native, Master Sergeant Graham Breedlove, was inspired to write this touching ballad after reading Mike Tidwell’s book of the same name. In this contemporary jazz ballad, listen for the unique tone color of guitar blended with soprano sax. Sensitive and melodic solos by bassist, Sergeant First Class Regan Brough (pron: raygun bruff), and alto saxophonist, Sergeant First Class Bill Linney, round out this memorable performance.
KELLI’S NUMBER · mp3 6:05 Composer/arranger: SFC Regan Brough (pron: ray-gun bruff)
Following Duke Ellington’s example of composing for members of his band, Army Blues bassist, Sergeant First Class Regan Brough, wrote this bluesy, brassy shuffle to specifically feature Stanley Turrentine-informed tenor saxophonist, Master Sergeant (ret.) John DeSalme (pron: deh-salm). A student of composition, Brough created the tune’s opening acoustic bass motif using scale tones provided by the digits of “Kelli’s” phone number…a young woman with whom Brough was once smitten.
BARBARA · 8:41 Composer: Horace Silver | Arranger: SGM (ret.) Jim Roberts
This classic Horace Silver tune was arranged by former Army Blues guitarist, Sergeant Major (ret.) Jim Roberts and features Sergeant Major Tony Nalker (pron: nall-ker) on piano, and Sergeant First Class Antonio Orta on soprano sax. True to the original Horace Silver version, this arrangement starts out smooth and lyrical, but then transitions to a hard-swinging jazz waltz, complete with shout chorus.
BUGABLUE mp3 · 8:20 Composer/arranger: SGM Craig Fraedrich (pron: frayed-rick)
This tune is a modern take on the popular boogaloo groove of the 1960s that still remains popular today. Written by trumpeter, Sergeant Major Craig Fraedrich (pron: frayed-rick), BugaBlue is informed by classic tunes such as Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” but takes just enough twists and turns to make it fresh and unique. Listen for high-energy solos from trombonist Staff Sergeant Victor Barranco, trumpeter Sergeant Major Craig Fraedrich (pron: frayed-rick), and drummer Master Sergeant Steve Fidyk (pron: fidd-ick), build the chart to a thrilling shout chorus climax.
WALK THAT DOG mp3 · 3:45 Composer/arranger: SFC Regan Brough (pron: ray-gun bruff)
Written as a tribute to the great bassist, Ray Brown, Walk That Dog opens with composer and bassist, Sergeant First Class Regan Brough, taking an extended walking bass solo. He brings in the full band and the chart builds to a thrilling, brassy shout chorus.