Art Beat: Philharmonic ends year with all that jazz

The Gwinnett Philharmonic will end its 2007-08 season of concerts with a jazzy beat as it presents "Sizzling Swing, Big Band Style" at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

The orchestra will be led by music director Monte Nichols, and the spotlight will be focused on special guest Sam Skelton for the second half of the performance. Skelton is a highly acclaimed saxophonist who will treat audiences to the mellow sounds of jazz classics.

The overall program will rock with Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train," Glenn Miller's "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and "In the Mood." Then there will be Count Basie's "Sweet Georgia Brown," the traditional "Just A Closer Walk" and selections from Gershwin, such as "My Man's Gone Now," "Summertime" and "Strike Up The Band." Audience members will also groove to Carmichael's "Georgia On My Mind," Walker and Arnold's "You Don't Know Me," Lee's "I Love Being Here with You" and Goodwin's "The Jazz Police."

The addition of Skelton to the concert is another example of Nichols using outstanding local talent to feature during Gwinnett Philharmonic concerts.

"There is such a great pool of local talent," Gwinnett Philharmonic spokesperson Kelly Haggard Olson says. "We make a special effort to draw on that pool instead of bringing people in from elsewhere. We hope to publicize that this area does have so many talented musicians. It gives them a chance to play to the home audience."

Skelton is a native of Conyers and has been active in the Atlanta-area music community for more than 10 years. He graduated summa cum laude from Georgia State University and from the private studio of Tony Carere with a degree in jazz studies.

He hasn't just stayed around Atlanta, though. His credits include performing or being a guest artist with such luminous entities as the London Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed locally with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Pops, Peachtree Pops, Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and the Cobb Symphony Orchestra.

Skelton is also to be heard on many recordings. As a "sideman" on more than 150 discs, he can be heard on recordings by Elton John, Howard Tate, Matchbox 20 and many more. His television and radio jingles can be heard on The Weather Channel, The Travel Channel, The Cartoon Network, CNN, Turner South, and in commercials for Nature's Own, Popeye's and Papa John's. His television appearances include "In the Heat of the Night," "Savannah" and Sinbad's "Summer Jam II" on HBO.

Skelton is director of jazz studies and lecturer in saxophone at Kennesaw State University. He served as professor of saxophone at Georgia State University from 1991 to 2004 and was jazz ensemble director at Georgia Tech from 2002-04, and artist-in-residence at the University of Georgia's jazz department.

Tickets for the concert are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors and $12 for students. They can be purchased at any Ticketmaster outlet or at the Gwinnett Center Box Office at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.

For more information about the Gwinnett Philharmonic, visit the Web site at www.gwinnettphilharmonic.org. To listen to clips of Skelton's work, go to www.samskelton.com.