Last night we attended a concert by the Airmen of Note, the US Airforce Jazz Band. These guys are the top of the crop and at the top of their game. And the concerts are FREE. Every year they host a Jazz Heritage Series featuring professional jazz artists. Last night featured Steve Turre. Turre is a trombone celeb, a member of the SNL band since the 80s, and not only that, he turns conch shells into jazz instruments! Whaaaaattt?
You call a guy who plays the trombone a trombonist. What do you call a guy who plays a conch shell? A conchist? Maybe you call him crazy, but Steve Turre makes some amazing music as a seashellist. My computer keeps trying to correct it, so he must be ahead of the curve. He leads a shell choir called Sanctified Shells – you can check it out on Youtube. On top of that, he’s an awesome composer and arranger of blues, jazz, and something like a mix of naive shell sounds with a Latin beat.
He wrote a couple of tunes dedicated to Ray Charles, most notably, “Ray Charles’ Collard Greens,” as well as arrangements inspired by JJ Johnson, a virtuoso of jazz trombone. Crowd pleasers included “My Shining Hour,” featuring vocalist Tech Sgt. Paige Wroble, and “My Funny Valentine,” transposed for the male trombone voice.
The band rocked. The trumpet lead, Sr Master Sgt Brian MacDonald, is a flawless player. I really admire his efficient approach. He gets a lot out of what seems like a little effort. Brian plays a Conn Constellation, a tried-and-true vintage horn. Chief Master Sgt Tim Leahy played a burnin’ bebop solo over Cherokee changes, which change every bar. Barry Sax player, Master Sgt Doug Morgan, came out of the shadows so play a seriously fast solo on the final tune. Steve couldn’t leave the evening without featuring the trombone section, who ripped it up, trading solos and chewing up those collard greens. The bass bone player, Tech Sgt Ben Polk, created a nice, fat foundation for the section. Great concert all around with exceptional players.
Next up, Terell Stafford!