For those of you who only associate the Army and music with Reveille or The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company C, prepare to have your minds blown and your horizons expanded by the Jazz Ambassadors when they play the Crown Theater on May 1.
    The Jazz Ambassadors are an elite, 19-piece touring jazz orchestra representing the United States Army that plays a wide variety of music: big band, swing, bebop, Latin, military anthems and marches, jazz standards and patriotic standards.
    {mosimage}The Jazz Ambassadors are the Special Forces of the military music set, with rigorous requirements almost on a par with their Green Beret brethren.
    "We’re not like typical military bands," said Sgt. 1st Class David Bullman, the Jazz Ambassadors’ tour coordinator. "You can’t ‘just join.’ First, we have to have an opening, then you have to send us an audition tape. If your tape is better than everyone else’s, then we’ll call you in for an audition.
    "You’ll play for us and if we like you, we’ll send you to an Army recruiter and you’ll go through everything else a regular recruit does, including basic training," Bullman said.
    Members accepted into the Jazz Ambassadors are automatically assigned a rank of E6.
    Bullman says all members of the orchestra have advanced music backgrounds and many are former music teachers, with all having been tutored in the discipline of jazz.
    A typical set list for the Jazz Ambassadors includes songs such as Duke Ellington’s Rockin’ in Rhythm,        Rodgers and Harts’ Blue Moon, and the traditional torch song, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Other artists covered by the band include Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin and even pop chanteuse Cyndi Lauper.
    The band also performs its own compositions.
    "We have several members who have written and scored music," said Bullman. "So we like to play some of their original pieces."
    The band has appeared in all 50 states, plus Canada, Mexico, Japan, India and throughout Europe. Typically, the band will play around 100 gigs a year. When not playing in theaters and civic centers and coliseums, the Jazz Ambassadors entertain high school kids.
    Bullman says the Jazz Ambassadors’ popularity is "amazing."
    "You wouldn’t believe all the e-mails we get from appreciative fans," said Bullman. "People are especially complimentary of our patriotic songs; many simply can’t believe soldiers can play with the high level of musicianship this band does."
    Instruments played by the Jazz Ambassadors include trumpet, trombone, guitar, drums, saxophone, bass and piano.
    Vocals are provided by Master Sgt. Marva Lewis.
    "Our vocalist, Lewis, and drummer (Staff Sgt. Todd Harrison) seem to be our most popular performers," said Bullman.
    As an example of the sort of musical background found among the members of the Jazz Ambassadors, Lewis served as principle vocalist for the Jazz Knights at the United States Military Academy, the Soldier Show and the Wiley College A Cappella Choir.
    Harrison has performed professionally for more than 22 years with greats such as Kirk Whalum, Bill Watrous, Marvin Stamm, Clark Terry and Paul Gilbert. Harrison studied composition at San Jacinto Junior College and percussion performance at Houston Baptist University.
    "I promise a great show for everyone who comes," said Bullman.
    And you can’t beat the price: the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and is free to the public.


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