When the saints go marching in: Fulton Street Jazz Band returns to Nevada City in time for Mardi Gras | TheUnion.com

When the saints go marching in: Fulton Street Jazz Band returns to Nevada City in time for Mardi Gras

The Fulton Street Jazz Band will perform at the Nevada City United Methodist Church on Tuesday for a concert of classic jazz and swing.
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The Fulton Street Jazz Band returns to the Nevada City United Methodist Church on Tuesday for a concert of classic jazz and swing. Doors open at 1:30 p.m.

The Fulton Street Jazz Band 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 to have played at each of the 43 Sacramento Music Festivals.

For this year’s performance, renowned stride pianist Bonnie Otto is standing in for band founder and leader Bob Ringwald, who is on medical hiatus. “Stride piano” is a jazz style that developed in the large cities of the East Coat, mainly New York, during the ‘20s and ‘30s. Stride players typically play in a wider range of tempos, and with a greater emphasis on improvisation.

Otto, who started playing piano at the age of four and is classically trained, wowed a crowd when she was only 12 with a stride version of Bach’s Invention #8.

“It was all downhill from there,” she said jokingly.

For years she has been a staple on the jazz circuit, performing with bands such as Stan Mark, Wooden Nickel, Blue Street, Smart Fellers, and Midnight Rose. As her bio reads, “Where there’s fun, there’s Bonnie.”

Classic Jazz and Fat Tuesday are enduring elements of Mardi Gras, which began as a day of feasting and festivities prior to the start of the Christian season of Lent, a commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness for 40 days. One popular Fat Tuesday custom is a “hymnal,” a gathering and celebration of old songs of the faith in Dixieland style. Fulton Street will perform many of those gospel standards and, as always, “What a Wonderful World,” a song of inspiration popularized by Louis Armstrong. The concert ends with the traditional favorite, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

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

“It wasn’t called any kind of jazz then,” said band founder Bob Ringwald. “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 1910s, jazz musicians began leaving New Orleans and took their music to big cities such as 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.

In addition to Bonnie Otto on piano and bob Sakoi on trumpet, Fulton Street Band features Bob Williams (trombone and vocals), Vince Bartel (drums), Paul Edgerton (clarinet and sax), and Darrell Fernandez (bass).

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

This free event is a gift to the community from the church; there is a free-will offering for the band only.

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