CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Inside the Charleston Municipal Auditorium Sunday afternoon, a small crowd came in from the cold to have a few laughs and catch some hot jazz.
The Southern Fried Jazz Band at the Municipal Auditorium, presented by Charleston's Community Music Association, was a pleasant respite from the blustery day.
The Dixieland-infused musical outfit brought with them a little Southern sunshine and conjured up a light summer daydream: a nice treat even during this mild mountain winter.
The afternoon was one part history lesson mixed with two parts hot jazz. Trumpet player and bandleader Don Edwards led the audience through a brief history of the rise of jazz and blues.
Edwards pleaded for the preservation of jazz, like his beloved Dixieland, which he said was being lost, along with authentic American culture and, with music, he made a case that old-style jazz was worth saving.
For many in the overwhelmingly gray audience, the afternoon's concert served as a walk down memory lane. The band played a wide variety of standards like "Saint James Infirmary," "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey" and "Some Day You'll Be Sorry."
Of course, the show was never purely one form of jazz or another. The Southern Fried Jazz Band kept with a vaguely Dixieland style, but also branched out here and there in other genres.
Toward the end of the concert, Edwards brought out each of the players in his band and gave them the opportunity to take a little musical bow of their own and show off something from their personal catalog of favorite songs.
He also spotlighted Charleston's Paul O'Connor. The 85-year-old trombone player grew up on Charleston's West Side, where he also learned music and graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School during World War II.
O'Connor said he was glad to get home for a visit and provided a very warm rendition of "When You're Smiling."
Musically, the band was pretty tight. With decades of professional experience under all their respective belts, they worked together in a breezy, affable fashion that always seemed like a party and the furthest thing from work.
The whole band seemed genuinely pleased just to get the chance to share their music with a crowd, even if this one was smaller than usual.