River Road Ramblers jazz band

ACJS in December (Photo by Denny Schreffler)

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ACJS presents live music January to May and September to December, performs live in-school performances, produces a four-day festival every November featuring local and national bands, awards scholarships to graduating seniors who will pursue a major or minor in a music field and supports Desert Sounds in their mission to provide musical instruments to students who could not otherwise afford to take part in school music programs.

The River Road Ramblers from Tucson will be performing their special Dixieland music for the Arizona Classic Jazz Society event on Sunday, January 20. They formed as a Dixieland band in 2007 with an emphasis on traditional New Orleans-style jazz and the West Coast jazz-style of Lu Watters (12/19/11 to 11/5/89) and his Yerba Buena Jazz Band, performing in San Francisco for many years.

The River Road Ramblers will be introducing their new cornet player in January. Denny Schreffler joined the Musicians’ Union at the age of 13. He was an occasional extra with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the late 1960s and played in night clubs in the 1970s, where he become familiar with some of the “name” big bands. He played lead or jazz chair with some notable swing (and sweet) bands still operating at that time.

Denny recalls those gigs, “They were all one-nighters within a day’s drive of Cincinnati. Most leaders couldn’t afford to transport their full crew from the coast into the hinterlands for one or two gigs, so they used a contractor in Cincinnati who would send out the same basic group of good musicians and excellent sight readers to gigs in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio – everywhere except Cincinnati. The appearance was to be that the ‘regular’ band was on tour, so they didn’t want Cincinnati faces showing up in a ‘touring band’ in Cincinnati.”

Denny played Vaughn Monroe’s last gig – the big Kentucky Derby party the night before Secretariat began his Triple Crown streak. The one “sweet” band was Sammy Kaye. He carried his own rhythm section, his lead trumpet, and lead alto because his style was so specifically different than any other band, and they all stood up and sang, “Heyyyy, Daddy!…”

In and out of music ever since, Denny moved to the Tucson area several years ago, making music whenever possible and feeling lucky to have hooked up with John Prokop and the River Road Ramblers.

Come and join the fun and welcome the Ramblers at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, One San Marcos Place in Chandler, on January 20 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Cost is $15 for ACJS members; $20 non-members (become a member on the 20th and get in free; yearly membership $35 couple, single $25). For more information, go to www.azclassicjazz.org or call 480-620-3941.