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March 29, 2014

Army-strong jazz

Jazz Ambassadors perform free concerts this weekend

PLATTSBURGH — The Jazz Ambassadors of the United States Army Field Band have swung into town.

The U.S. Army’s official touring Big Band presents a performance tonight at Moriah Central School and, on Sunday, at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House.

Led by Bandmaster Chief Warrant Officer William McCulloch, the 19-member ensemble has appeared in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Japan, India and Europe.

The shows are officially sold out, but any open seats will be given to others at the door just before the performances.

SALUTE TO VETS

McCulloch has served for 23 years in the Army, the last two with the Jazz Ambassadors.

“We perform jazz, Dixieland, Big Band to new and more modern jazz,” said the bandmaster, who is stationed at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. “We play some pop music as well.”

The Plattsburgh set list includes Duke Ellington, the Beatles, Chaka Khan and Pat Metheny.

“We end every show with patriotic selections and a salute to our veterans,” McCulloch said. “Our audiences tend to be filled with veterans. We pay respect to all those who served before us and those who are currently serving.”

The preponderance of the ensemble’s show is jazz, so meeting World War II vets is particularly exciting to the musicians.

“This was the pop music of the day for some of the veterans who are coming to see us,” McCulloch said. “It’s fun for us to connect that way.”

ON THE ROAD

The Jazz Ambassadors travel more than 100 days a year to bring the Army story to Americans. The ensemble’s staples are small towns and communities.

No stranger to the North Country, McCulloch was deployed as commander of the 10th Mountain Division Band in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from May 2008 to April 2009.

Originally from Northville, Mich., he joined the Army at age 19.

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