Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ahh---Bag Band

Despite any reputation I may have earned in the Navy as a jazz player--or worse--my favorite gig was not dance band, show band, combo or solo piano. It was bag band.

At least that was our name for it, derived from the black pouches of march-size music we carried slung over our shoulders, pouches full of "shitty ditties," some published for concert band instrumentation, many written for specifically for cut-down bag bands.

My preference for these gigs was partly based on--I'll admit it--laziness, or, as I called it at the time, efficient resource management. Bag band gigs were easy gigs. No hauling two tons of electronic gear. No hour-long set-up and sound check. Just a dozen or so MUs with horns, music and baton.

But I also liked the product. Our bag bands were good. A lot us us had come from seagoing unit bands and were accomplished at getting a big sound from a small band.

And often, spirited marches and razzmatazz patriotic ditties were exactly what a certain audience expected. The Northeastern Navy Show Band routinely traveled with those black pouches and packed the trailer with a tuba and bass drum easily accessible. You never knew when bad booking, bad weather or good sense might dictate that a certain audience would be happier with a little John Philip Sousa than a lot of Barry Manilow.

In this video, you can see the early a.m. shadows on the pavement as a bag band from Navy Band Southeast struts its stuff. Well, actually, there's no strutting going on, because this is an A+  tup-of-the-line operation: a sit-down bag band gig. It doesn't get any better than this.


Tom Gillette said...

From the looks of the trombone player,far right, second row; these weren't just chairs, but Lazy Boys! Still it's nice to hear a little "Joyce's 71st NY Regiment March" played so well by the men and women of Navy Band Southeast.
Glad to see Frank Mullen back in action in 2013!

Gordon Shaffer said...

I never heard of a "Bag Band" however I know of the 17 piece shipboard band due to assignment on 7 aircraft carriers with the Admiral of the 7th fleet in 1953-55 in the Pacific. That was the only way to do 4 years in the Navy!

Gordon Shaffer, drummer.