The Commanders Jazz Combo brings its eclectic mix of old and new jazz standards as well as original tunes to Picnic in the Park on Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Davis Farmers Market in Central Park, Third and C streets in Davis. Based at Travis Air Force Base, the combo plays great American jazz, covering many musical styles, including traditional swing, funk, ballads and rock.
Rick Thorp, senior master sergeant, is the noncommissioned officer in charge of The Commanders, an 18-piece band. He explains, “The Commanders Jazz Combo comes from within this big band, and while I oversee the ensemble, Technical Sergeant Marshall Gentry (our drummer) is really the small group leader.”
He describes the combo as mainly improvisational. Thorp says: “They choose a simple melody and style, and then paint their own picture of the tune without written music or verbal communication. The picture will be different every time they play, reflecting the group’s thoughts and ideas at the moment.”
Thorp loves big band jazz and salsa, and says, “Watching the individual players interact and switch roles back and forth from soloist to accompanist without any discussion is both interesting and impressive. These musicians are great examples of the kind of professionalism, teamwork and innovation that all airmen display throughout the Air Force every day.”
Joseph Whitt, senior airman, plays bass with the combo, and says, “The Commanders Jazz Combo performs at air shows all over California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, as well as at community barbecues and cook-offs. We’ve performed at the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival, the Sacramento Music Festival and our rhythm section will be performing at Monterey Jazz festival in late September.”
The Combo recently performed with San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, and with the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in 2010.
Airman Whitt adds, “I like the energy of the music whenever we perform. We get to play new music constantly and have a huge library. We tour frequently and I love how much our audiences enjoy our music.”
Davis Farmers Market manager Randii MacNear adds, “We are so pleased to host The Commanders Jazz Combo as part of our Picnic in the Park concert series this year. Our audience loves all kinds of jazz, and I think The Commanders Jazz Combo will be real crowd-pleasers.”
The Market, which runs from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. has a cornucopia of farm-fresh late summer and fall fruits and vegetables along with local eggs, honey, cheeses and wine for sale.
For additional information, call 530-756-1695 or visit http://www.davisfarmersmarket.org.