Mid-Ohio Valley musicians mourn passing of jazz player Bruce DeMoll

Photo Provided Bruce DeMoll at the piano during a performance of the Smoot House Band. DeMoll died on Wednesday at his residence in Vienna.

PARKERSBURG — A legend in local music circles passed away on Wednesday leaving a void no one can fill, his fellow musicians said.

Bruce DeMoll, 86, began playing the saxophone when he was a teenager, sharpening his skills in New York City where he played jazz with Paul Motian and Jack Six and toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

“He really hit the heights with that group,” said Mike Dotson, who performed with DeMoll in the Smoot House Band.

DeMoll died at his Vienna residence.

“It’s a great loss to the musical world,” said Dotson, who works at C.A. House Music in Parkersburg where DeMoll had taught saxophone, clarinet and piano to students.

DeMoll started professionally playing the saxophone when he was 15 with Russ Chidester’s Band. He graduated from Marietta High School and went to New York City where he was a student of Sid Cooper, who played the flute and clarinet.

After his discharge from the U.S. Navy, DeMoll performed with the Johnny Long Band for two years. Long was called the “man who was long on music.”

DeMoll auditioned for the Glenn Miller Orchestra and toured with the legendary band for five years in major U.S. cities and twice in Japan. He received a degree in music from Ohio University through correspondence courses while he toured with Glenn Miller Orchestra.

“He was a great guy,” fellow musician Greg Garvin said.

When his students at the music store didn’t show for a lesson, Dotson would talk with DeMoll about his adventures in New York and with the orchestra, particularly the stories about Japan.

“It was enlightening,” Dotson said.

After he returned to the area, DeMoll formed the Bruce DeMoll Group which specialized in jazz. He performed with the Smoot House Band for 25 years.

“Bruce was the finest musician around,” said Felice Jorgeson, executive director of the theater and leader of the Smoot House Band. DeMoll led the sax section.

DeMoll did whatever was needed, Jorgeson said. No gig was beneath him, she said.

“He was so humble and would do anything you asked him to do,” Jorgeson said.

He had the admiration of the younger members of the band, some of whom emailed her of their condolences over DeMoll’s passing.

“They all had so much respect for him,” Jorgeson said.

DeMoll’s last performance with the Smoot House Band was June 3 at the Taste of Parkersburg. He and Jorgeson knew he wasn’t feeling well and she began mental plans for a tribute, which will be performed during the Smoot’s annual Hometown Christmas, she said.

The band will play its arrangement of  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” DeMoll’s favorite, in his honor, Jorgeson said.

DeMoll is survived by his wife, stepsons and five grandchildren, among others. Services and visitation are on Saturday at Lambert-Tatman Funeral Home in Vienna.