Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Jazz in Iraq

A profile of sax-playing Army sergeant on duty in Cob Basra

Army musicians performing jazz at Holy Joes in Iraq
Sgt. James D. Shank, saxophone player for the 1st Inf. Div. band in Iraq
The 1st Inf. Div. band performing at Holy Joes in Iraq

COB BASRA – While Soldiers relax in “Holy Joes” on Contingency Operating Base Basra, there are clunks and chatter from the stage. The 1st Infantry Division Jazz Band is bringing in their equipment. Power cords are being run, instruments tuned and fingers and lips limbered. Sgt. James D. Shank, saxophone player for the 1st Inf. Div. band and Baltimore, Md., native, is preparing himself for a nearly two-hour set. Behind him is the rest of the band: Sgt 1st Class Dan Rhoades on the bass guitar, Sgt. 1st Class Brandy Hagin playing the drums, Staff Sgt. Greg Ybarra on the trumpet and Sgt. Brendan Osweiler playing the keyboard.

Shank comes off as a quiet sort of soldier. He isn’t overly engaging to the crowd gathered in the chapel, preferring to let them go about their conversations and board games. The 26-year-old lets his talents speak for him, seeming at home as soon as his hands take hold of the saxophone. As the dulcet tones pour from his instrument, he falls into the music.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published