High Energy Dixieland & Traditional Jazz
29 Year Legacy
It all began in October of 1993 when the Yosemite Jazz Band established its roots in the mountain community of Oakhurst, California, located just outside of Yosemite National Park.
Berl Howell, our band’s fearless leader, approached Teddy Strauss, Jimmy Kirin, and other local musicians about forming a traditional jazz band. It wasn’t long before the band was rolling along.
In the summer of 1994, the newly formed band began performing at the Oakhurst Pizza Factory, which has become an annual tradition. The band quickly gained a loyal following and many gigs ensued. The Yosemite Jazz Band added more local musicians over the years, including James Mierkey, Jeff Gurule, Elva Gurule, and Les Nunes. The band has been thrilled to add Bonnie Otto to our line-up as an alternate piano player for out-of-town gigs. Bonnie has performed with the band at the Sacramento Hot Jazz Jubilee and the Fresno Sounds of Mardi Gras festival.
The band has recorded five albums over the years: two studio albums, “Will Play For Food” (2000) and “Ain’t Got A Lousy Dime” (2005); and three live albums, “Tell ’em Joe Sent Ya”, “The Next Stage” and “The Music Goes Round and Round” comprised of performances recorded at the 2011, 2014 and 2015 California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, respectively. The Yosemite Jazz Band performs for jazz club dances, county and state fairs, jazz festivals, weddings, funerals, memorial services, parties, family reunions, conferences, church events, and grand openings. The band has performed the Sounds of Mardi Gras Festival in Fresno each year for over 15 years.
After almost 30 years, Berl recently handed his leadership role to Jeff, who will no doubt bring a new perspective to the band. Overall, our current band line-up is the most exciting and entertaining version of the band yet!
As you plan your trip to Yosemite National Park and find yourself in the Oakhurst area, please stop by and see us. The band performs every Thursday night at the Pizza Factory from 6:30 PM through 8:30 PM, from May through September. Enjoy a pizza, the warm summer evening, good company, and our traditional jazz sounds.
Jazz & Dinner Thurs Nights
LIVE MUSIC – FOOD – DRINKS – FAMILY FUN
Join us for “Happy Thursdays” from 6:30PM – 8:30PM at the Pizza Factory
Planned to begin May 4, 2023 and every Thursday evening through the Summer
Enjoy a nice, summer evening with a delicious pizza, good company, and our traditional jazz sounds at the patio.
The band performs every Thursday night at the Pizza Factory from 6:30 PM through 8:30 PM, from May through September. Yosemite Jazz Band also performs at festivals and other events throughout the year. Visit the calendar page to view a complete list of upcoming performances.
San Joaquin Dixieland Jazz Society
sunday, april 2 | 12:30pm – 4:30pm
Stockton elks club
8900 thorton rd in stockton
Yosemite High School Music Program
Thursday, april 13 | 6:30pm
Yosemite High school Theater
50200 high school road in Oakhurst
The Pizza Factory
Thursdays | 6:30PM – 8:30pM
Tentatively to Begin on May 4
40120 Hwy 41 in Oakhurst
MEET THE BAND
Yosemite Jazz Band Members
Featured Next Generation Jazz All-Star
ELVA GURULE │ Trumpet
Elva first began performing with the Yosemite Jazz Band as a young child singing her favorite traditional jazz songs with the band. In 2018, to the surprise of her father Jeff, she took a strong interest in the trumpet. Elva is a natural on the trumpet, playing beyond her years, and soon began performing with the band. Elva’s passionate playing impresses audiences whenever she performs. Elva is very active on the trumpet, playing in her high school jazz band, wind ensemble, and marching band. Elva has been regularly selected to perform in the County Honor Bands including the jazz band, orchestra, and concert band and has been selected as a feature soloist each year. In addition, Elva plays in a local rock/pop band with her father Jeff. Elva has performed at a number of venues with the band including several years at the Sounds of Mardi Gras Festival. The band is proud to showcase such a promising young talent.
BERL HOWELL, Trumpet
Berl is the founder and original leader of the Yosemite Jazz Band. Berl began playing traditional jazz in the California coastal community of Ventura where he performed with the Volunteer Dixieland Fire Brigade and The Untouchables Jazz Band. Soon after relocating to Bass Lake, Berl began performing with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band and formed the Yosemite Jazz Band. Today, Berl resides in Coarsegold where his enrichment of life continues through music, especially through traditional jazz. His extreme soulful playing and good-hearted enthusiasm is inspiring to both the band and the audience.
TEDDY STRAUSS, Reeds
Teddy, co-founder of the Yosemite Jazz Band, has been playing clarinet nearly all his life. In high school, the sounds of the Count Basie Band caught his ear and prompted him to take up the tenor sax just to play jazz. Teddy has performed in musical pit bands, traditional jazz bands, symphony orchestras, clarinet choirs, and community concert bands throughout California, including the Oakhurst Community Concert Band. Teddy’s raspy singing voice and energetic playing style contribute greatly to Yosemite Jazz Band performances.
JEFF GURULE, Banjo, Guitar & Band Leader
Jeff joined the band in the summer of 2001 as plectrum banjo and guitar player. With little experience at the time with 4-string banjo, the Yosemite Jazz Band and supportive fans provided an encouraging environment for Jeff to grow as a jazz banjo player. This nourishing environment combined with Jeff’s passion for music and learning has resulted in Jeff blossoming as a traditional jazz musician and a newfound leadership role in the band. Jeff’s energetic playing style has been influenced by plectrum banjo greats such as Don Van Pelta, Brad Roth, and Lee Floyd. Jeff plays guitar and 5-string banjo in a number of other bands, performing many different genres of music including bluegrass, pop, rock, blues, and country. Most notably, Jeff sings and plays 5-string banjo with the band Sugar Pine who perform two nights a week in the spring and summer at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
LES NUNES, Trombone
Les began playing trombone with the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2020. Les’s musical talents contribute greatly to the band. Les has a deep musical background and is a well-respected musician in the Central Valley of California. As a music educator of 35 years, he taught at Clovis High and Clark Intermediate, Roosevelt School of the Arts, Bullard High and Sunny Hills High schools. He has served as an adjunct instructor at Fresno State, Fresno Pacific, Fresno City College and West Hills College.
Les is accomplished on trombone, euphonium, guitar, bass and vocals. He has performed as an artist locally and statewide with the After Dinner Mints, The Hal Magnie Big Band, Fire and Rain, Banda Libertade De Valle, Rumba 32, The Jazz Composers Orchestra, The Happy Time Jazz Band, Yosemite Jazz Band, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli, Bobby Vinton, Kaye Starr, Gloria Gaynor, The Who, Gladys Knight, Andy Gibb, Melissa Manchester, Guy Lombardo Orch., Stars of the Lawrence Welk show and many others. He has also performed overseas in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and Swaziland.
JIMMY KIRIN, Percussion
The “Drummer-Man” is a Yosemite Jazz Band founding father and charter member. Originally from Joliet, Illinois, Jimmy performed with numerous bands in his youth throughout the Chicago area, including the one in the above photo. Jimmy’s love for traditional jazz once led him to participate in the World’s Largest Band at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee for listing in the “Guinness Book of World Records”. Jimmy performs with the Oakhurst Community Concert Band where he can be seen in the back row pounding on a variety of percussion instruments. His Chicago-style rhythm is fundamental to the Yosemite Jazz Band’s beat.
JAMES MIERKEY, Piano
James joined the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2002 as a piano player. James began playing music and singing early in his life as a result of his parents’ dedication to music. He started out playing drums when he was six years old and soon began playing the piano. James has an extreme interest in all forms of jazz music, especially traditional jazz. His enthusiasm in theater has segued toward directing and producing musicals and performing on stage at the Golden Chain Theater in Oakhurst, where he also serves on their Board of Directors. James has many talents, as he is a music teacher at the local elementary schools and is involved with numerous musical projects, taking on the roles of musician, arranger, musical director, and recording engineer.
BONNIE OTTO, Piano
Bonnie Otto first began playing with the Yosemite Jazz Band in 2018 at the Sacramento Hot Jazz Jubilee. Bonnie has become a regular alternate piano player for the band at festival performances. Bonnie is no stranger to the trad jazz scene and played in the Sacramento area for many years and is well-regarded as a musician and arranger for a number of bands. Her stride-style playing is highly energetic and a joy to watch. The Yosemite Jazz Band is always thrilled to have Bonnie join the band for selected performances.
Have Us Play
Your Next Event
High energy, enthusiastic style of traditional and Dixieland jazz perfect for any event. Our live music is sure to get your guests stomping their feet, clapping their hands and singing along!
Fill out our contact form or email email@example.com to discuss booking details & general inquiries. Thank you!