May 20, 2019. The Airmen of Note is the award-winning jazz ensemble of the U.S. Air Force Band. With Global Reach, their fourth new album in as many years, the ‘Note’ truly goes global, featuring arrangements of traditional Irish and Korean folk tunes, along with breezy, beachy sambas, and—just for good measure—a Beatles cover.
Listen to the Airmen of Note on WRTI 90.1, Monday, May 27th from 6 to 9 PM
The Airmen open with “Sakura,” a smoking, high energy take on the traditional Japanese folk song associated with cherry blossom season. The brass section is tight and forceful, playing with the precision to be expected from an elite military unit.
They close with “Itsbynne Reel,” a take on a traditional Irish folk tune (one that Michael Brecker once notably covered) that serves here as the vehicle for the Airmen to showcase their phalanx of saxophones, consisting of two sopranos, two tenors, and a baritone.
In between, there’s a solemn, almost patriotic, version of “Arirang,” the traditional folk song often considered the unofficial Korean national anthem. To the extent reunification of the Korean peninsula is even a remote possibility, it couldn’t hurt for both sides to get together and play this arrangement a couple hundred times. The work by the woodwinds here is particularly lovely.
As it is on “Inutil Paisagem,” the aforementioned beachy samba that carries the power to transport you to a Brazilian beachside if you’ll allow it. The work by the flutes is magnificent, as are the vocals of Paige Wroble.
“Blackbird” is the Beatles cover here, and though the market for jazz arrangements of “Blackbird” is a saturated one, there is much to enjoy in how it’s presented here by this 18-piece ensemble—they flat out groove on the second half of the tune, and we’re treated to Ms. Wroble’s vocals in a much different context than in the samba.
‘Tis the season for a touch of patriotism, so if you’re looking for a taste of the American ideal infused with a little international flavor, check out the latest from the military’s finest jazz ensemble.