Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Memorable Night in Arkadelphia, Arkansas

by Chief Musician Rob Holmes
I awakened Saturday, Nov. 3rd in the morning to board the bus for an early departure to Arkadelphia, Ark. My first thought of the day was that I had never been to Arkadelphia, but I couldn't help drawing a parallel to the fact that both of my parents grew up just outside of Philadelphia, so I figured this would be a great opportunity to have a brand new life experience. It was also time to put the lunar-like terrain of New Mexico and the vast blue skies of Texas behind us as we began the eleventh day of our national tour. Chief Musician Peter Revell, our road manager for the first half of tour, passed the coveted torch (a rental car...) to Musician 1st Class Scott Shepherd who took over as tour manager for the remainder of our tour. Well done, Chief Revell, and thank you for your efforts! The Commodores are looking forward to MU1 Shepherd’s portion of the tour with open eyes (and loosened belts) as Shepherd is known for his culinary sensibilities.

Housed on the beautiful campus of Ouachita Baptist University (pronounced: wosh-i-taw), Jones Performing Arts Center provided a memorable setting both visually and acoustically for our evening concert. The University shares its name with the 605-mile Ouachita River which flows from Western Arkansas, through Northeast Louisiana, to the Black River near Jonesville, La. It turns out that our sponsor, Dr. Craig Hamilton, is a contemporary of the Commodore's lead alto player, Senior Chief Steve Williams, as Dr. Hamilton studied music under the guidance of Steve’s father. Somehow the Commodores always seem to make and renew connections like this on tour!

As the new musical director, it seems fitting to talk about the evening's program. Some highlights included a rousing rendition of W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” which featured Musician 1st Class Tim Stanley, a native of Bellville, Illinois, on trumpet. Augmented with his plunger mute, he poured his heart out through his trumpet and may have been reflecting on the ‘Giant’ disappointment that fans of the St. Louis Cardinals felt at the abrupt end of their unpredictable baseball season. The concert also featured a stunning arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s “Up from the Skies” which was masterfully orchestrated by renowned pianist and arranger Jim McNeely. This chart featured stellar solos by Chief Luis Hernandez on saxophone and Chief Jamie Way on trombone. Ironically, the piece required participation from everyone in the ensemble except for our versatile guitarist Chief Gary Malvaso. Who could imagine a traditional big band tackling a Jimi Hendrix tune while giving the guitar player a break? Our guest vocalist, Musician 1st Class Casey Elliott, continues to dazzle audiences night after night. Tonight, her rendition of “Cry Me a River” was sublime.

We continue our tour tomorrow in Searcy, Ark. and we're looking forward to another great show. I leave you with a tour Haiku:

A great Commodores tour stop!
Sharing jazz music

About the Author

MUC Robert Holmes MUC Robert Holmes is a native of Washington, D.C., and he has been a member of the Commodores since April 2000. Holmes is in great demand as a clinician for the Commodores both nationally and throughout the region. Since joining the Commodores, he has contributed more than 30 musical arrangements, including nine original compositions, and in 2005, he produced the Commodores recording, “Three Shades of Blue”.

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