Air Force jazz band will visit

Sunday, October 1, 2006

SIKESTON -- For the first time in many years, Sikeston will be treated to a performance by a U.S. Air Force band.

The Shades of Blue Jazz Ensemble, a 16-piece big band made up of active-

duty members of the U.S. Air Force, is scheduled to play a free concert at 2 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sikeston Senior High School Field House.

The jazz ensemble is part of a larger group of 75 total musicians, 60 of which make up a classical concert band, 10 of which play as a rock band, and five which serve as full-time administrators.

In addition to doing classical music performances, the concert band also splits up into small ensembles which include a brass quintet and a wood quintet in addition to the jazz ensemble.

Sr. Master Sgt. Mark Hansen, group leader and tenor saxophonist, has been with the band for about 19 years.

"It's a great job -- it's great way to serve the country, a great way to keep the horn in front of your face, a great way to represent the Air Force," Hansen said. "We're demonstrating through music the excellence found throughout the United States Air Force."

This particular group tours primarily in the Midwest.

"A six-state region is our primary region," Hansen said. "I've been in Sikeston before -- I'm glad we're getting back."

Hansen said those who come out can expect to see "a very entertaining, very accessible show."

The Shades of Blue Jazz Ensemble has a repertoire which includes everything from Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman to modern jazz hits and even original pieces.

"We are a big band in the tradition of the great American big bands, playing the music of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich and also patriotic selections," said Sr. Airman Dwight Wiest, musical director and lead alto saxophonist for the ensemble.

"We play a great variety of music," Hansen said. "We'll always reach back and play the music of the great traveling big bands as well as modern jazz bands -- we always have a vocalist with us."

The band changes their set list often so performances are always fresh and exciting. Among the songs on the list for the Sikeston performance are an arrangement of "Tuxedo Junction" by Tommy Reeves and "In the Mood" by Joe Garland.

Wiest said his personal favorite to be played during the show will be "a piece called 'It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Don't Got That Swing) which will feature vocalist Se Airman Bonnie Ramsey."

"We try to play a little bit of everything -- something for everybody," Hansen said. "Definitely things people recognize and enjoy."

Accordingly, the jazz ensemble always gets a great response from the crowds they play for.

"Folks love the band -- they really do. We get all ages out," Hansen said. "From young families all the way to the senior citizens and a lot of veterans -- a really diverse audience."

The shows, which typically run about an hour and 45 minutes long with an intermission about half way through, always ends on a patriotic note by featuring at least one of "the great songs of this country," Hansen said.

"We always end with a public acknowledgment of our veterans," said Sgt. Tommy Money, a trumpet player for the band. "You never get tired of it."

Free tickets are available at the Standard Democrat or by mail with coupons from advertisements for the concert. There is a limit of six tickets per request.

"We're just excited to get into Sikeston again and are looking forward to seeing everybody," Hansen said. "We really just appreciate the hometown hospitality."

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