The Kennedy Center

U.S. Army Blues


Following their informal beginning in1970, The Army Blues became an official part of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in 1972. Over the years it has evolved into the premier jazz ensemble of the U.S. Army. As a component of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” the Army Blues is one of the few remaining professional big bands working today. Comprised of alumni of prestigious music schools and veterans of the professional music scene, it is an ensemble of the finest jazz musicians in the nation.

In keeping with the tradition of America’s only original art form, jazz, the Army Blues strives to preserve the music of such big band legends as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton. Additionally, many members are accomplished composers and arrangers who contribute their talents by writing for the ensemble—often catering to the musical strengths of the individual band members—much in the style of legendary big band arrangers.

The 18-piece ensemble has performed at world-renowned venues including the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, New York City’s historic Birdland, and Washington, DC’s legendary Blues Alley. The Army Blues has also performed with jazz greats Doc Severinsen, Arturo Sandoval, Stanley Turrentine, Louie Bellson, Marlena Shaw, James Moody, Kevin Mahogany, Terrell Stafford, Dave Brubeck, Slide Hampton, and Dr. Billy Taylor. The group is a regular performer at the International Association for Jazz Education, International Trumpet Guild, and International Trombone Conferences and performances at the White House, State Department, and various high-profile military venues are not uncommon. Additionally, the Army Blues plays an important role in community outreach by performing for the public around the National Capital Region. In conjunction with the USO and the office of the Sergeant Major of the Army, members volunteer their services to perform in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait during the holiday season in support of their fellow Soldiers stationed overseas.

Serving as musical ambassadors, the group’s members are very active in the nation’s school systems. In addition to performing, the mission of the ensemble includes educational outreach and recruitment. Members share their knowledge and experience with musicians of all levels through master classes and one-on-one instruction. The unparalleled professionalism of the Army Blues upholds a level of musicianship that matches the U.S. Army’s standards of quality and excellence.

The last week of January 2007 saw the Army Blues in the studio recording Blues at Thirty Five, the band’s first official recording since early 2004. The double-disc recording showcases this powerful big band on charts created by composers and arrangers from within the group. New (on Disc Two) are tracks of small groups including a New Orleans style combo, which traveled to a hurricane-ravaged Louisiana in September 2006, a Latin jazz combo, and other smaller ensembles, several of which have been involved in the recruiting effort throughout the last few years. For their efforts, the Army Blues were awarded their first ever “Wammy” (Washington Area Music Awards) in February 2008 for Blues at Thirty Five. The awards came in the categories of Best Big Band Group and Best Big Band Recording, respectively. These were the first “Wammies” awarded to a major military ensemble in the history of the contests.

Watch Past Performances

Video 10/2/2018: U.S. Army Blues Featuring Ben Allison

The U.S. Army Blues, part of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Army. After informal beginnings in 1970, this 18-piece ensemble became an official element of the Army Band in 1972. Comprised of exceptional jazz musicians from across the nation, the Army Blues strive to fulfill their mission through public concerts, educational outreach, and the preservation of the tradition of America’s unique art form: jazz.

Featuring Ben Allison as a guest artist at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. Ben’s compositional prowess has a cinematic and narrative quality drawing from influences ranging from the straight ahead jazz cannon, the western classical music cannon, rock, folk, jazz fusion, and world music. His playing is grooving and exciting yet subtly detailed and thoughtful and he’s been described as one of the most exciting young artists to emerge out of the late 20th and early 21st Century New York jazz community.

Video 11/20/2017: U.S. Army Blues

Please join the U.S. Army Blues as they celebrate the centennial of this giant of jazz by playing his swinging arrangements! Pianist Tadd Dameron was an integral voice in the development of bebop in the 1940s—although his legacy is perhaps most strongly felt today through his compositions. As an arranger for the Jimmy Lunceford Band and as a bandleader himself, Dameron forged the way for the harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic complexities of bebop to be integrated into Big Band writing.

Video 2/1/2017: U.S. Army Blues

The U.S. Army Blues is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” of the United States Army. Comprised of jazz musicians from across the nation, the U.S. Army Blues gives public concerts and conducts educational outreach to continue preserving the tradition of America’s unique art form: jazz. This concert celebrates Black History Month by performing a repertoire written by African American composers.

Video 12/19/2014: U.S. Army Blues: A Stan Kenton Christmas

Part of the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” the U.S. Army Blues returns with its festive program highlighting the music of pianist, composer, and orchestra leader Stan Kenton.

Video 11/11/2014: U.S. Army Blues presents a Veterans Day Celebration

Members of the band present an evening of music in celebration of Veterans Day.

Video 11/30/2011: U.S. Army Blues

Kick off the holidays with the band performing a Christmas program featuring the music of Stan Kenton.

Video 11/14/2011: U.S. Army Blues

A component of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” the ensemble presents an evening of jump blues. A dance floor will be installed. Part of Swing, Swing, Swing.

The Army Blues