Mardi Gras may have been February 9 in New Orleans, but it made a second appearance Sunday night in Marlinton as Morgantown’s High Street Jazz Band filled the Pocahontas County Opera House with rhythm, blues and a whole lot of improvisation.
Founded in 2010 by band leader and Satchmo voice twin John Fitzmaurice, High Street Jazz is a collective of West Virginia University students and alumni who love jazz music and want to spread the New Orleans style throughout West Virginia.
The show Sunday night was part of the band’s annual spring educational tour. The band travels to towns in West Virginia to play music at venues like the Opera House, as well as in schools, nursing homes and anywhere else they are welcome.
Band manager and trombone and banjo player John Bryant said the main goal of the band is to simply bring a style of music to people who may have never heard it or may not know the history of it.
“[John Fitzmaurice] had one idea and that was to bring this music, this New Orleans tradition to the streets of Morgantown and to the streets of different cities around West Virginia,” Bryant said. “Every year we do an educational tour in which we bring this music to schools and communities that normally wouldn’t have this sort of entertainment. Part of this band’s mission is to bring this music and this tradition into your homes.”
Known for its “March Outs,” High Street Jazz Band begins its shows with a New Orleans funeral parade. Sunday night, the band marched out of the Opera House, traveled up Third Avenue, turned onto Main Street and paraded to the Snowshoe Career Center before looping back around to the Opera House stage.
A crowd followed behind the band, clapping, dancing and enjoying the music.
Once settled onto the stage, the band transformed the Opera House into a speakeasy – minus the smoke and alcohol – as it performed jazz classics including “Jesus on the Mainline,” “Momma Don’t Allow No” and, of course, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Members of the band are: Larry Schwab, trumpet; Alex Higgins, trumpet/vocals; Dominic Massimino, clarinet/ vocals; Josh Dickey, clarinet; P.J. Kase, trombone; Audrey Haller, sousaphone; Joel Steadman, sousaphone; Adam Richardson, drums; John Fitzmaurice, trombone/vocals; and John Bryant, trombone/banjo/vocals.
For more information on the High Street Jazz Band, visit www.thehighstreetjazzband.org