Washington, DC --
The Marine Dixieland Band returns to the stage this week for two performances: 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 20 at the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol and 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 21 at Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, Md. The concerts are free; no tickets are required.
Led by trumpet player Master Sgt. Daniel Orban, the Marine Dixieland Band is composed of clarinet player Master Sgt. Gregory Ridlington, trombone player Gunnery Sgt. Ryan McGeorge, tuba player Master Sgt. Mark Thiele, drummer Master Sgt. David Murray, pianist Gunnery Sgt. Russell Wilson, and guitar player Master Sgt. Alan Prather. The program Orban selected is a treasure trove of classic Dixie songs with a smattering of unconventional favorites.
The concert begins with “Sweet Georgia Brown” written in 1925 by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, and Kenneth Casey. Bernie’s recording of “Sweet Georgia Brown” was so popular that year that it remained on the pop charts for 13 weeks, with five of those weeks as number one. But its popularity didn’t end then. “Sweet Georgia Brown” went on to be recorded by Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Charlie Parker, Bing Crosby, and so many others. While this song was an instant jazz standard after its debut, it took on a whole new life in 1952 when it became the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Clarence Williams, red hot jazz pianist and entrepreneur, wrote the next two selections: “Royal Garden Blues” with Spencer Williams (no relation) and “West End Blues” with Joseph “King” Oliver. One of Williams’ many claims to fame was that he was the first to use the word “jazz” on sheet music. Legend has it that his business card read, “The Originator of Jazz and Boogie Woogie.” In their book “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around: Black Popular Songwriters, 1880-1930,” David A. Jasen and Gene Jones claim that “Royal Garden Blues” was the first song based on a riff, or repetitive rhythm. They wrote that the song, written in 1919, “is an indomitable romp, impossible to deliver offhandedly; its heat is built-in. It is made of two twenty-four bar strains cleverly joined by a four-bar ‘belt’ that allows for a tempo shift between its two main themes. The first theme is lazy …The melody of the second strain spans only six notes, and it bursts with energy.” “West End Blues” is also a first; Louis Armstrong’s recording was one of the first to feature scat singing and is credited with changing the course of the history of jazz. Named after New Orleans’ West End, a favorite picnic area on Lake Pontchartrain, Oliver wrote the piece soon after his protégé Louis Armstrong struck out on his own in 1928. Armstrong recorded his version of “West End Blues” a few weeks after Oliver and it made history. Composer and jazz educator Gunther Schuller wrote, “But it was ‘West End Blues’ that made it clear jazz could never again revert to being entertainment or folk music….[It] served notice that jazz could compete with the highest order of musical expression. Like any profoundly creative innovation, ‘West End Blues’ summarized the past and predicted the future.”
The eclectic and playful program continues with other such popular songs as Dominic James “Nick” LaRocca’s Tiger Rag (“Hold That Tiger”); Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya;” Marc Shaiman’s “A Wink and a Smile;” Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan;” George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, and Ira Gershwin’s “Oh, Dere’s Somebody Knocking’ at De Do” from Porgy and Bess; and Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.”
Summer concerts are free, no tickets are required. Inclement weather cancellations will be made by 6 p.m. on the Marine Band Concert Information Line (202) 433-4011 and at www.facebook.com/marineband.