When the saint’s come playing jazz — Fulton Street Jazz Band to play on Fat Tuesday at Nevada City United Methodist Church in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

When the saint’s come playing jazz — Fulton Street Jazz Band to play on Fat Tuesday at Nevada City United Methodist Church in Nevada City

Submitted to The Union

The Fulton Street Jazz Band will once again perform on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the Nevada City United Methodist Church, 433 Broad St. The concert starts at 2 p.m., with doors opening at 1:30 p.m.

The annual jazz event got its start with a former minister while he was serving a Methodist church in northern California.

When the local jazz festival took place, he noticed that no one showed up for church on Sunday. So he hired a jazz band and held a service every year during Mardi Gras. When he came to the Nevada City church, he kept the tradition going by bringing in the Fulton Street Jazz Band for a combined service and concert.

The Fulton Street Jazz Band, led by Bob Ringwald, is a Chicago-style band that plays in the tradition of Eddie Condon's New York band of the '40s and '50s. The group originally met informally in the early '70s at a Sacramento pizza parlor located on Fulton Avenue. They are the only band out of more than 1,000 bands to have played at each of the 43 Sacramento Music Festivals.

Fat Tuesday is a popular part of Mardi Gras celebrations. It began as a day of feasting and festivities prior to the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, which commemorates Christ's fasting for 40 days in the wilderness. One enduring Fat Tuesday custom is a "hymnal," a gathering and celebration of old songs of the faith in Dixieland style. Among the hymns played by the band are "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Rock of Ages," "How Great Thou Art," "I'll Fly Away," and "What a Wonderful World," a song of inspiration popularized by Louis Armstrong.

Jazz is an original American musical genre that began in the late 19th century in New Orleans.

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"It wasn't called any kind of jazz then," Ringwald said. "There was only one kind, and it came from the musical traditions of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Europe." Old hymns and marches were "jazzed up," with improvisation as the musicians played.

In the late teens, jazz musicians started leaving New Orleans and took their music to cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. As it spread, jazz changed — bands became bigger, and new arrangements were written for larger groups. By the mid-'40s, it had become too expensive to transport large bands and their instruments from city to city, and the bands became smaller.

Today jazz bands typically include a "front line" of trumpet, trombone, and clarinet, with rhythm by bass, piano, and drums.

Band leader Ringwald was blind by the age of 10, but said with a smile, "It never stopped me from doing anything, except maybe being a pilot or a pro baseball player."

His daughter, actress Molly Ringwald, has sung with the band in the past.

Following the performance, the audience is invited downstairs for "decadent desserts," coffee, and tea in the Fellowship Hall, where they can also meet and chat with the musicians.

The event is a gift to the community from the church. There will be a free-will offering for the band only.

In addition to Ringwald, who plays piano and does vocals, band members include Bob Sakoi, trumpet, flugelhorn; Paul Edgerton, reeds; Bob Williams, trombone, vocals; Darrell Fernandez, bass; and Vince Bartels, drums.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Fulton Street Jazz Band

WHEN: 2 p.m. Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13

WHERE: Nevada City United Methodist Church, 433 Broad St., Nevada City

COST: Free, donations accepted for the band