Blue Street Jazz Band


blue_street-1The Blue Street Jazz Band has been a major force on the Dixieland jazz circuit for a number of years. Founded in 1983 by trumpet player Forrest Helmick and currently under the leadership of trombonist Dave Ruffner, the band has been one of the most innovative groups in traditional jazz. Original songs and creatively conceived arrangements have been the hallmark of the band along with the musical expertise displayed by each individual member on their respective instrument. The band showcases singing of the "Siren of the San Joaquin" - Ms. Sherri Colby. Although New Orleans jazz is the cornerstone on which the band was built, the band earned the reputation as "The Bad Boys of Dixieland" for their eclectic tastes in music. At any given Blue Street performance the audience is liable to hear various styles of music including swing, Mardi Gras, folk song, marches, waltzes, Latin music, and hymns. The band is capable of playing entire sets devoted to the music of Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, The History of Jazz, and Louis Armstrong. Audiences particularly enjoy the band's Sunday morning gospel programs.

One of the unique aspects of the Blue Street Jazz band is the fact that there are three music educators in the band. They are Dave Ruffner, a high school band director, Rick Canfield a junior high school band director, and Forrest Helmick, an elementary school music teacher. Because of their interest and education in music, the band has been highly sought out as clinicians and advocates of traditional jazz bands for the youth.

While some members teach, one member is still in a student. Featured vocalist Sherri Colby is working on her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia while living in New Orleans with her husband Blue Street banjo/guitarist Matt Bottel, a computer program designer. The rest of the Blue Street members make their living performing music. Pianist Jason Wanner recently received his degree in musical performance in Piano from the California State University at Sacramento while working as a professional musician. Reed player Nathan Ketner is a full-time musician in Los Angeles and Tuba/String Bass player Jason Jurcak is a full-time musician in the Crescent City of New Orleans.

For the past fifteen years the band has played every major jazz festival in the United States and has performed in Canada, Mexico, and Europe as well. The band has recorded twenty-two albums including Blue Street’s most recent entitled HOME. They have been top sellers at the festivals.