The U.S. Air Force knows how to do a salute.
Here is one to the late, great Aretha Franklin, from the Air Force Rhythm in Blue ensemble, at Saturday’s eighth annual Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival.
Staff Sgt. Melissa Lackore of Garner, Iowa, does the Queen of Soul proud. Franklin died last week. She was 76.
Video: Air Force tribute to Aretha:
As a bonus, we also have video of Mark Pender— from LaBamba & The Hubcaps, Conan O’Brien’s Basic Cable Band, and many other top groups–joining the Air Force band for one of his own tunes.
Watch him defy the laws of hyperventilation by sustaining a trumpet note for about the length of an album.
Afterward, he expressed admiration for these musical servicemen and women.
“They’re incredible musicians… what an honor for me, and a thrill,” said Pender, who had met some of them when they performed on Conan’s show.
“They knew my stuff. We didn’t rehearse. That is one of the tightest things that I’ve gone into like that. To have a band that well prepared and that tight on two original songs of mine–wow!”
Video: Mark Pender with the Air Force Rhythm in Blue band:
Headquartered at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, Rhythm in Blue is one of seven bands in the Air Force. Members play everywhere, from nursing homes to military bases in hot zones around the world.
Many of the concerts are about winning hearts and minds.
“We call it ‘soft power,'”said Staff Sgt. Michael Mannella of Detroit.
“A lot of times, we’re the first Americans everyone meets. We show them the way we really are,” he said.
Mannella recounted performing at a school for the deaf, in a part of Africa where ISIS and Al Qaeda were seeking recruits. Air Force band members encouraged students to touch the loudspeakers, to feel the good vibrations from the United States.
‘SOFT POWER’: U.S. AIR FORCE BAND CONQUERS MORRISTOWN. SLIDESHOW PHOTOS BY JEFF SOVELOVE AND KEVIN COUGHLIN. CLICK / HOVER ON IMAGES FOR CAPTIONS:
Landing a coveted spot in these military bands is not easy.
“It took me three auditions to get in,” said Lackore.
At least these Air Force players get to fly to gigs in supersonic jets, right?
“We travel pretty much everywhere by bus,” one of the band members said with a laugh.