If you were an American soldier deployed to fight in World War II, what did you spend your downtime doing? In some cases, you might have been entertained by a band made up of service members (some of them well-known musicians in their own right) playing the hits of the day. In an article on the National World War II Museum’s website about the iconic New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew, Rebecca Poole notes that the bands’ work was also intended as an artistic strike against the repressive fascist governments of the Axis powers.
You might wonder what one of those bands sounded like. Now, the music of one such group has been restored and made available digitally, thanks to the grandson of one of the band’s members.
Jason Burt is a historian and history teacher. In 2019, he found vinyl recordings of the group in which his grandfather Richard played trumpet, the 746th Far East Air Force Band. As Burt told NPR, hearing this music was revelatory. “I put the music on and it was like my own private concert with my grandpa,” he said.
Burt worked with professional sound engineers on the restoration project, and now the album Sentimental Journey is available for purchase, and can be heard via Spotify and Apple Music as well. Burt told NPR that he plans to donate part of the proceeds to the USO, and has high hopes for a Grammy win in the Best Historical Album category next year. Grammy or not, it’s a fascinating story about a singular time in American history.
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