A Summer Band Battle at Memphis’ Oakhaven Park

Bands, Drummers, Drums, entertainment, events, music, musicology, videos

080 Memphis Mass Band082 Memphis Mass Band083 Memphis HBCU Alumni Weekend084 Memphis Mass Band085 HBCU Alumni Weekend086 Memphis Mass Band087 Memphis Mass Band088 Memphis Mass Band090 Memphis Mass Band091 Magic City All-Stars092 Magic City All-Stars093 Memphis Mass Band094 Memphis Mass Band Drumline095 Memphis Mass Band096 Memphis Mass Band Percussion097 Memphis Mass band099 Memphis Mass Band Drumline100 Memphis Mass Band Drumline101 Memphis Mass Band Quints102 Memphis Mass Band103 Magic City All-Stars104 Magic City All-Stars105 Memphis Mass Band106 Magic City All-Stars107 HBCU Alumni Weekend109 Magic City All-Stars110 Magic City All-Stars111 Magic City All-Stars112 Memphis Mass Band113 HBCU Alumni Weekend114 Memphis Mass Band116 Memphis Mass Band Drumline117 Memphis Mass Band118 Memphis Mass Band119 Memphis Mass Band Snares126 Magic City All-Stars127 Memphis Mass Band Percussion128 Memphis Mass Band Drumline129 Memphis Mass Band Tenors132 Magic City All-Stars133 Magic City All-Stars134 Memphis Mass Band Snares135 Memphis Mass Band Tenors136 Magic City All-Stars141 Memphis Mass Band Percussion142 Memphis Mass Band
There is a Black marching band tradition which is distinct from its white equivalent, despite points of similarity, and, not surprisingly, that tradition is deeply loved in Memphis. In fact, the city has had some legendary band directors, including Jimmie Lunceford, the internationally-known big band star who was Manassas High School’s first band director, or Emerson Able, also at Manassas, or W. T. McDaniel at Booker T. Washington or Tuff Green at Melrose High School. Memphis musicians routinely enrich the Black college marching bands at Pine Bluff or Jackson State or Tennessee State. But the band culture doesn’t end during the summer, either, as there are alumni bands like the Memphis Mass Band, comprised of former HBCU band members, as well as current musicians home from college for the break, and perhaps a few high school students as well, and these summer aggregations battle each other during the summer months. This past weekend, the Memphis Mass Band battled its Birmingham equivalent, the Magic City All-Stars Band at Oakhaven Stadium during what was billed as the HBCU Alumni Weekend. About a hundred or more people turned out to see these two all-star bands battle, and I was impressed with the quality of both bands. The Memphis Mass Band was the larger of the two, but both groups had great arrangements, and a tightness and togetherness that I don’t always hear in established college bands. And the arrangements were largely unfamiliar to me and fresh. The Memphis band’s unexpected reading of Johnnie Taylor’s “Running Out of Lies” was definitely the high point in my opinion. I might add that despite a lot of trash talk between the bands, there was not one untoward incident. Just good fun and great music.

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