Dave Ruffner is a former band director who taught at Fresno High School in Fresno, California. He is also the leader of the Blue Street Jazz Band, a California based band that is primarily known as a New Orleans style traditional jazz band that also has an eclectic flair for the performance of Swing, Mardi Gras, and Gospel music. Blue Street was founded in 1983 by Forrest Helmick and has been under Dave’s leadership since 1986.
Dave was born in Bakersfield, California where he learned how to play the trombone in the public school system. In his early teens Dave began playing the harmonica. Dave also sang all throughout his school years and frequently performed in a barbershop style quartet at church. Dave played trombone at Foothill High School, Biola College, Bakersfield College, and Fresno State University. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Music Education at Fresno State University.
Dave’s professional musical career at first seemed short lived. In his college years he played in several rock bands, at occasional dance band gigs, church orchestras, and for the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra. During his first few years of teaching Dave played with the Fresno Municipal Band, and continued to play more occasional dance jobs as well as church gigs. During this period, he briefly led his own brass quintet and also served as a choir director in a church. His musical fortunes changed when Dave returned to Fresno after teaching five years in Firebaugh, California. He joined a Latin group called Copacabana Tropical led by Gilbert Castellanos, father of the San Diego based renowned trumpet player of the same namesake, and played with the group for 10 years.Soon after the Blue Street Jazz Band was formed in 1983, Dave started a band that catered to dancers and called it Dave Ruffner and the Lil’ Big Band. He also started a polka band that played for Octoberfests and other occasions.
Over the years Dave has on occasion performed with such luminaries as the Temptations, Natalie Cole, B.J. Thomas, George Probert, Giselle Mackenzie, and George Gobel.
In the late 1980’s Dave began to realize his youthful dream of being a songwriter and became a frequent contributor to the Blue Street Jazz Band’s repertoire.
Over the years Dave has developed a keen interest in early jazz history as well as the teaching of traditional jazz to youngsters. For many years, Dave wrote a column devoted to youth jazz for the American Rag and is still an occasional contributor.
In 2012 Dave moved to New Orleans, Louisiana and now works as a musician on Bourbon Street at the Cafe Beignet, Maison Bourbon, and Fritzel's. .
Dave has recorded frequently in the last 25 years, mostly with the Blue Street Jazz Band. Dave has also produced seven solo projects. In his solo projects Dave has recorded with such luminaries as George Probert, Bob Schultz, Jim Buchman, Lance Buller, and Steve Yokum. Five of Dave's seven projects are found on CD BABY. DIXIELAND TROMBONE features tunes that are best known as songs played in a traditional jazz style that showcases the trombone. DIXIELAND TROMBONE features three of Dave’s original songs. The CD: IN THE VALLEY SAN JOAQUIN are all songs written by Dave. They reflect Dave's love for various genres in music. On the album Dave penned four traditional jazz tunes, three Latin Jazz songs, a blues, a contemporary jazz ballad, a hymn, and a country song. LE HOT CLUB DE RUE BLU is a Django Reinhardt-like recording featuring Dave on harmonica with Rick Canfield and Sam Rocha on guitars and Sam dubbing in the string bass part. Dave wrote Django's Harmonica for the album. Dave's latest CD: DAVE RUFFNER AND THE BEIGNET ORCHESTRA OF NEW ORLEANS features the musicians that Dave works with daily at the Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street. Vocalist/Pianist Steve Rohbuck is featured predominantly throughout the album. New Orleans legend Steamboat Willie appears on two cuts on the CD. Reed player Tom Fischer and banjo/guitarist Chris Brown join the Beignet Orchestra to complete the recording. Dave's latest CD is entitled NEW ORLEANS SOJOURN. The CD contains 16 tracks of famous New Orleans songs including Bourbon Street Parade, Basin Street Blues, Canal Street Blues, When It's Sleepytime Down South, Milneburg Joys, and Tin Roof Blues. Dave assembled some of the best of current traditional jazz players working on Bourbon Street for the recording including Chuck Brackman, Barry Foulan, Mike Fulton, Tom Fischer, Jim Hession, Phil Campo, Jason Jurzak, and Benji Bohanan.