"We try to get a hold of as many musicians who come into town as we can," says Chief Jeff Taylor, who conducts the Commodores, the U.S. Navy's only full-time big band. "Call 'em up and say, 'Hey, are you free? Come on over and blow with a good band.' " Guest performers have included basist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis -- both of whom were made honorary chiefs, saxist Glover Washington Jr., trumpeter Clark Terry and vocalist Karen Henderson. Local radio personalities Bill Mayhugh and Ed Walker have narrated programs with the band. The Commodores will perform this afternoon at 3 in a free concert at the Foundry Mall (30th street at the C&O Canal). A typical program of the 20-member band might include selections from the Dorsey, Goodman, Kenton and Buddy Rich books as well as composition of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane and a Dixielandish "Bill Bailey." Among the soloists are trumpeter Bob Pomerleau, trombonist Harvey Coonin, saxists Jim Hayward and Charlie Young and vocalist Bob Drummond. Mountain Laurel will open the afternoon at 1:30 with bluegrass and old-timey country music.

"Joe Pass came by one day and was sitting there digging the rehearsal," Taylor recalls, "and we finally got him to take out his guitar and play along. At some point in the tune, he made a signal to go into double time and the rhythm section misunderstood and quadrupled the time. Joe played about 10 choruses as fast as his fingers would go and finally everyone kind of got the message that they ought to slow it down a bit. He was incredulous that the band was that hip."