By Josette Keelor
Friday night, New Orleans-style jazz will march into Winchester announcing three months of jazz at the Bright Box Theater.
Mardi Gras isn't until Tuesday, but at 15 N. Loudoun St., it will begin with the W.E.S. feat, "When the Saints Go Marching In," featuring Grammy-award nominated bassist Corcoran Holt.
It's the first in a three-part series pilot that theater co-owner Marilyn Finnemore said will test the waters of Winchester's jazz mood by shouting, "Hey, we're here, jazz is here in Winchester."
It's part of her answer to audience requests, and she said the theater's size, color scheme and acoustics presented "the ideal place for jazz."
The series will take place on the last Friday in March, April and May, beginning with Holt, a Shenandoah University graduate, who plans to perform the work of jazz legends like John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and Miles Davis.
Joining him will be the 18-piece big-band-style jazz ensemble from Shenandoah Conservatory.
The next concert will feature Cynda Williams, from the films "One False Move" and Spike Lee's "Mo' Better Blues," performing classic jazz favorites on March 28.
Guitar duo Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge will perform modern jazz with a twist of bluegrass and new music on April 25. All three concerts will start at 8 p.m.
The theater already incorporates jazz into many of its shows, but Finnemore said more is coming.
Starting March 23, Sunday jazz sessions will begin, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. with house band Pieces of Malarkey, featuring a rotating cast of musicians organized by Peter Prout of the husband and wife duo Chatham Street.
Since opening its doors last summer, the Bright Box Theater has offered a mix of entertainment, from musical performances to stand up comedy acts. On Tuesday, for the official Mardi Gras, its monthly Latin Night will feature The Masked Mystic Society party at 7 p.m., and at 6 p.m. March 22, the Mardi Gras Celebration starring the Dirty Bourbon River Show will include two floors of live music.
"Last week between Sunday and Saturday we've had five shows and all five of them sold out, so the venue is doing really well," Finnemore said. "The key is it's a lot of fun."