A Dixieland jazz band based in Charlotte, N.C. will launch the 86th season of the Williamsport Community Concert Association at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 on the stage of the Scottish Rite Auditorium.
The band is the Southern Fried Jazz Band, and it emerged to the national scene through the effort of its leader and trumpeter Don Edwards who first played Dixieland on tour with name bands of the Big Band era following his formal education at the Cincinnati Conservatory.
Edwards shared the stage with Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz greats over the years.
He spent 15 years performing in Vegas. For five years he performed with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra on "The Nat King Cole Show" on NBC. He remained at the Sands Hotel throughout the reign of the Rat Pack and made the sound track for the original movie version of "Oceans Eleven."
Eventually Edwards' dream of keeping the public's love of live jazz led to creating the Southern Fried Jazz Band in Charlotte, N.C. Edwards and each of his handpicked jazz artists perform their music with and assurance and spontaneity that evoke an enthusiasm for live jazz that never fails to "wow" the audience. The show is both traditional and educational. Traditional Dixie land tunes becomes an integral part of a colorful history lesson that describes how jazz developed into the only art form America has given the world.
A man of many talents, clarinetist Jim Ruth is a widely respected musician and educator hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Along with clarinet, Ruth plays all the reed instruments as well as trombone, drums, bass and banjo.
He began his professional career a member of the Canadian Forces Big Band and was also a member of the Canadian Forces Dixieland Band. After his discharge, he played with orchestras in Canada and Minnesota and with Dixieland bands on the river boats in Minneapolis. When not working with the Southern Fried Jazz Band, he continues to perform with name acts and bands in the southeast. He also teaches in the greater Charlotte area.
Bill French is a jazz pianist and jazz drummer extraordinaire. He also is a Renaissance man of sorts who dabbles in other art forms and has spent his life studying the history and techniques of many different genres of music. French has performed with a number of Dixieland bands and has been a member of several name bands that include, among others, the New Orleans Jazz Machine, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Jazz Quintet (bebop), and Bass Case (avant garde). He also is a popular accompanist for jazz singers such as Vicki Capo and Rachael Lee.
"Frenchly," as he is known, has built a sizeable practice in Portland, Ore., teaching classical and jazz piano, jazz drums and improvisation on a variety of musical instruments. He also has become an established solo pianist and sideman with a wide variety of local bands and combos in and around the Portland area.
Trombonist Joey Lee's first encounter with Edwards was as student when he became a member of the stage band Don founded at Fermion University in the 1970s. He traveled with Edwards as a member of the big bands and with name acts and shows that performed in the southeast. After college Lee settled in Anderson, S.C. where he serves as resident trombonist with the Greater Anderson Musical Consortium Symphony. He also is a member of the Palmetto Pyocyanin, a prestigious trombone choir composed of freelance trombonists who perform music from renaissance to jazz throughout eastern United States. He has been a featured soloist with this choir and has backed such guests as renowned trombonist, conductor, and composer Wycliff Gordon.
Bassist Joe Corne is the comedian of the band. He also is a seasoned musician whose background is as varied as the instruments he plays, which include the bass, violin, cello and piano.
Following a formal education at Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, Corne served for years as a string teacher and orchestra director in the public school systems of Burlington, N.C. and Roanoke, Va. While in Burlington Joe worked as a per-service player with the symphonies of Duke University, the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Symphony at Chapel Hill. Upon moving to Roanoke, he organized a jazz trio for the Hotel Roanoke that played seven days a week for 18 years.
Since returning to his hometown of Charlotte, Corne has worked with local bands and shows in the area.
He also has formed his own string quartet that performs for wedding ceremonies and receptions in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Rick Hodges puts the icing on the cake for the Southern Fried Jazz Band. A native of Lynchburg, Va., Rick has a natural talent and finesse for playing the drums that he inherited from his father and teacher who played drums with the Ben Bernie Big Band.
Unlike many contemporary drummers, Hodges is as proficient with wire brushes as he is with drum sticks. His exceptional timing and flexibility make him one of the most sought after drummers in the Carolinas.
He knows exactly when and how to include the extra "bells and whistles" that add pizzazz to any band, which is the reason Edwards chose him to be the drummer for the group.
Allie Hutsell, formerly known as Allison Moore, has been singing professionally since she was 7 years old. She serves as soloist and background vocalist with the Grapevine OPR Kids that opened for the Judds, Porter Wagoner, Box Car Willis and many more.
Hutsell left the OPR Kids to join Johnny High's Country Music Review and at age 17, the last half of her senior year, she joined a variety show in Branson, Mo. as the lead female vocalist with the show and eventually served as vocal director and assistant production manager with the Shoji Tabuchi Show in Branson which traveled all over the world.
Her impressive voice and stage presence continues to book her with single performance and recordings.
From the moment Hutsell walks on stage, she captures the audience with her contagious enthusiasm, exceptional voice and improvisational skills.
For ticket information, contact Dorothy Maples at 323-6012 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The Box Office will open at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10. For more information, visit www.lycoming.org/wcca.