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Flat Sousa Jamming with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

[left to right] Tony Nalker (piano), Leigh Pilzer (baritone saxophone), Jennifer Krupa (trombone), James King (bass) and Ken Kimery (drummer and SJMO Executive Director) with Flat Sousa

[left to right] Tony Nalker (piano), Leigh Pilzer (baritone saxophone), Jennifer Krupa (trombone), James King (bass) and Ken Kimery (drummer and SJMO Executive Director) with Flat Sousa

Flat Sousa joined the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History on August 14 during a brief visit to his home town of Washington, DC to participate in the Society of American Archivists annual meeting.  The March King, creator of Stars and Stripes Forever, and his jazz colleagues took an opportune  moment to be photographed in the museum’s Flag Hall which serves as the home of the Star Spangled Banner.   While few today would ever consider Sousa a jazz musician, the June 30, 1925 headline of New Jersey’s Trenton Times proclaimed, “Jazz Always Here Says Bandmaster,” as the Sousa Band was about to premiere Sousa’s latest music fantasy, Jazz America. The syncopated rhythms and melodies of ragtime and New Orleans’ Creole bands were familiar to Sousa, but he had not considered using these types of novelty tunes as part of his band’s regular programming until the 1920s when American audiences began to favor jazz’s “hotter” swinging melodies over the refined sounds of the Sousa concert band.   After the band’s first performance of Jazz America, the piece went through several revisions but was played infrequently for the remainder of the band’s 1925 tour. However it was played numerous times during the Band’s 1925 and 1926 Willow Grove concert series. After the 1926 performances there is no record that the work was played again by the band, and the arrangement was never published.

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