Airmen of Note's Jazz Heritage Series wraps with Branford Marsalis
By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle, Air Force District of Washington Command Information
/ Published April 09, 2018
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- When years of planning and schedule alignment culminated in the news that Branford Marsalis would finally be performing with the Air Force Band’s jazz ensemble, Airmen of Note, for the final installment of this year’s Jazz Heritage Series, there was no time for jitters, much less lots of rehearsal.
And according to Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Burns, Airmen of Note’s flight chief and trumpeter, he and his fellow musicians – many of whom were seasoned professionals before joining the Air Force – don’t get nervous so much as a “real elevated sense of anticipation to work with such a high-profile artist."
The final performance in this year's Jazz Heritage series took place at Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center on Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus.
“People aspire their entire careers to play with an artist of this caliber,” Burns said. “And our Airmen are world-class artists themselves, so they don’t get jitters, they get jazzed about the opportunity to perform with these remarkable artists who inspire them.”
“Branford had been at the top of our wish list for a number of years, so we started planning and assembled a list with all-star names as we do each year for the series, and got lucky that his schedule aligned with ours,” Burns said, adding that Marsalis is one of his heroes.
Despite limited prior interaction with the band, Marsalis, Burns explained, instantly meshed with the musical troupe, wanted to challenge himself with new, less familiar material, and even learned a song composed by Airmen of Note’s musical director and lead trombonist Master Sgt. Ben Patterson.
“Some guests like to use their own material, but Branford wanted to come in and do new arrangements, new charts, and learn it on the fly as great jazz musicians are known to do,” Burns explained. “He wanted to have a new experience -- that’s the level of artist and creative expert he is, and it turned out to be a magical.”
The Airmen of Note's Jazz Heritage Series, presented by The United States Air Force Band, provides a unique opportunity for the public to experience the Air Force's high level of professionalism through concerts featuring masters of the only American-born art form -- jazz. For the more on this story and additional images of the event, visit the Joint Base Andrews web page. As always, keep up with the latest photos and happenings at the AFDW Flickr and Facebook pages.