Trumpets, guitars and the high pitch of alto saxophones roar through the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center by musicians, as fans yell and cheer in the audience to the beat of jazz music.
The U.S. Air Force Band’s Airmen of Note kicked off the annual Jazz Heritage Series at the hall with guest artist Chris Potter, a multi-instrumentalist, in Alexandria, Va., on Feb. 6.
Potter’s career spanned three decades and he tours internationally with his own band of various jazz luminaries. The heritage concerts are where the ensemble adds a jazz artist and brings them in to record. Potter premiered arrangements of his compositions.
“Mr. Potter is one of the preeminent saxophonists in the world,” stated Master Sgt. Grant Langford, the AON saxophonist. “He embodies the spirit of innovation which continues to propel this art form.”
With roughly 9 million listeners on public radio stations, this performance is the first of three sequences presented by the group.
The series provides a wonderful opportunity for the public to experience the Air Force’s high level of professionalism through concerts featuring masters of the American-born art form — jazz.
In 1990, the AF Band established the heritage series, featuring the Airmen of Note in concert with legendary icons of jazz such as Rufus Reid, Joey DeFrancesco and Slide Hampton. A radio broadcast was added in 2007, expanding the dimension and appeal of the series by allowing listeners across the U.S. to enjoy performances that previously could only be appreciated by live audiences in Washington, D.C.
Through the duration of the concert, Potter’s compositions displayed with an expected audience of 1,000 concertgoers.
“I really enjoyed the show tonight,” said Cassie Pitts, a concert attendee. “This is the first one of the concerts I’ve ever been to and I would 100% come again in a heartbeat.”
For two of the band’s trombonists, Master Sgt. Ben Patterson, a music director and MSgt. Jeff Martin, the flight arranger, this series is their last.
The writer is a senior airman with the 11th Wing Public Affairs.