Saxophone All-stars with Johnny O'Neal
(from L to R):
fabulous and highly individual musicians with names that soon may (or at least
should) be of the household variety: Gary Harris, Brian Hogans, Mace Hibbard,
and Sam Skelton.
hails from the south. But Waco, Texas is too far to the west to be viewed as
“deep south” by most Atlantans. Hibbard’s primary musical influence was his
father, Dave Hibbard—a renowned lone star state jazz trumpeter. Mace is well
educated with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in musical performance and jazz
studies, respectively, but still manages to be one of the more
shoot-from-the-hip improvisers around. When he’s not on the bandstand or in
concert halls playing saxophones, clarinets, or flutes, Hibbard can be found
teaching jazz saxophone at several institutions, including Georgia State
is a renowned first-call multi-reedist, and perhaps the most well-rounded of the
four featured saxophonists. With dual roles as Director of Jazz Studies and
Lecturer in Saxophone at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta, Skelton
teaches and performs classical saxophone and jazz pedagogy with the same
virtuosic zeal. Not many can attest to mastery of both. Oddly, the required
skills, such as vibrato, phrasing, and basic tone production tend not to overlap
with the two genres. Skelton is homegrown, born and raised in suburban Conyers,
Georgia, several miles east of Atlanta.
hails from the town of Morrow, Georgia, a stone’s throw south of downtown
Atlanta. Hogans’ playing is multi-faceted, enigmatic, and interesting to say
the least. Amazingly, he is as proficient on piano as he is on saxophone.
Hogans plays jazz as individually as anyone, due at least partially to his
studies with disparate saxophone greats Bunky Green, Don Braden and Antonio
Hart. Hogans can be heard on bandstands wherever truly individual, in-depth
musicianship is appreciated or required.
is a friendly cat who warms up the coldest of people or
nightspots—the bluesiest native Atlantan featured here. This is not to say that
blues inflections are remotely absent from any one of the featured foursome.
But Harris seethes bluesiness as a teapot blows steam. A veteran tenor man who
has been on stages as far-flung as the North Sea and Montreux Jazz Festivals,
Harris is in demand as a sideman and leader throughout the Deep South and
beyond. His expertise encompasses both straight-ahead and R&B-tinged jazz.