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Al Hixon knows talent when he hears it


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It's almost a rite of passage for newly arrived jazz musicians in Southwest Florida. Those who have resettled from northern climates or are wintering here quickly find their way to15 South Ristorante Entoteca, a restaurant on toney St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota. On Monday night's, of course. That's when drummer Al Hixon holds his weekly jam sessions upstairs in a crowded room.

He's been holding his weekly jams for a total of 27 years in Sarasota since retiring as a land use planner in New England and moving south to nearby Longboat Key, and has hosted the Monday night jams in season (October through May). at 15 South for nine years. Al is a gracious and congenial host at his jams. Serious players and wannabees both get their shot at exposure. When Al really digs what he hears, chances are good that he'll find encouraging work for players- sometimes with the outfit he fondly calls his Underheard Herd.

One of the newest local Hixon recruits, who climbed those stairs at 15 South after his move to the area this past summer from Maryland, is saxophonist Pete BarenBregge. He was part of Hixon's band at a South County Jazz Club matinee concert in Venice on Friday, December 1, where most attendees were hearing him for the first time. BarenBregge has splendid credentials as a performer, clinician and educator. He spent 20 years as a member of the US Air Force's Airmen of Note, including an extended stint as the Washington-based group's musical director.

Hixon's band on Friday also included former Ellington bassist John Lamb, pianist Dick Reynolds (who was house pianist at Mr. Kelly's in Chicago in its heyday) and trumpeter James Suggs. Singer Synia Carroll joined the fun for two tunes in each set. Virtually all of the performers have made that climb up the stairs at 15 South at some point.

Concert highlights included BarenBregge's soprano sax feature on “Emily," Suggs' plunger-mute artistry on Duke Ellington's “In A Mellow Tone," Lamb's stunning arco duet with Reynolds on The Beatles' hit “Yesterday"and Carroll's explorations of Quincy Jones' “Miss Celie's Blues" from The Color Purple soundtrack and “The Nearness of You."

The concert was at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice, one of four different venues the South County Jazz Club in using in this, it's seventh season.
Al Hixon, John Lamb, Pete BarenBregge, James Suggs, Dick Reynolds

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved.



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