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It’s a celebration of jazz, Dixieland and New Orleans music — and a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina survivors.

This weekend, the U.S. Army Japan Band’s jazz and Dixieland ensemble, “Kanto Kings,” will perform three shows in Osaka as part of the Nakanoshima Music Carnival ’06/Osaka New Orleans Festival, said band spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Marty Schmidt.

The inaugural festival showcases jazz groups from around Japan, according to organizers.

The six-piece Army group, including horns and percussion, will feature a special guest at the event: New bandmaster and unit commander Chief Warrant Officer Peter Gillies, who will fill in on tuba.

The 40 members of the USARJ band perform around Japan for many community events, including marching in the Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Harajuku. But this is the band’s first trip to Osaka in many years, Schmidt said.

The Osaka trip is at the invitation of diplomats working in the Kobe-Osaka U.S. consulate, Schmidt said. Each year, the band participates in an event in Kobe. Since band members were going to be in the neighborhood anyway, so to speak, area officials thought the ensemble could stop by and help support this week’s Osaka jazz event.

The free, outdoor event runs 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday through Monday in Nakanoshima Park in Osaka. About 20 performers are expected, including New Orleans’ Grammy award-winning percussionist Cyril Neville.

The festival will feature donation boxes and hold charity fundraisers for Katrina victims as well as victims of other disasters worldwide, according to organizers.

The Army group will perform at Saturday at the opening ceremony and again at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The event also allows the ensemble to perform with other jazz bands in Japan.

For information or to book the Army’s band, contact Schmidt at: marty.schmidt@us.army.mil.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.

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