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Singer, musicians form jazz fusion
Music series kicks off its 13th season Saturday
1112Rick and MarkJAZZ
Rick Pruett, left, and Mark Davis

Evenings of Intimate Jazz series
What: Featuring Rick Pruett, Mark Davis, vocalist Maria Howell and others
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Arts Council’s Smithgall Arts Center, 331 Spring St., Gainesville
How much: $30
More info: 770-534-2787

For the first time, jazz musicians Rick Pruett and Mark Davis will perform with a vocalist.

Their typical jazz instrumental performance will be enhanced by multitalented actress and jazz artist Maria Howell at the first installment of this year’s Evenings of Intimate Jazz at The Arts Council’s Smithgall Arts Center. The event is in its 13th season.

"It is going to be somewhat of a wonderful challenge to perform a large variety of fusion and jazz," Pruett said. "... We do love the fact that it is intimate, and that people are there to actually listen to the music and to really be almost on stage with us.

"Then we have two special guests, Maria Howell, who is an actress and a jazz singer. She was in the motion picture ‘The Color Purple.’ She was the choir vocalist in ‘The Color Purple,’ and she is a dear friend of mine. And we have performed together in Gainesville actually at the Georgia Mountains Center. We have a keyboard player that will be sitting in; his name is Larry Barker."

Howell will perform in the first and second half of the show, and Barker is set to perform "Quiet Nights" with Pruett and Davis, among other pieces.

"There are not a lot of guitar players that I work with solo, and he is so proficient with his playing it just makes it easy," said Howell, who added she loves to perform in Gainesville. "One thing that I have learned about Gainesville is that they are one of the best audiences that I have performed in front of because they come to hear the music, and they are very intent ... on their attention."

Howell said she will mix it up a little bit with jazz and adult contemporary.

Pruett, Davis and Howell also will perform with the band PdQ, which is made up of Grammy-nominated bass player Jerry Peek, Chip Lunsford on drums and keyboardist Randy Hoexter.

"They’re really upbeat," said Gladys Wyant, director of The Arts Council. "Rick has like seven or eight guitars that he will bring out for the show, and they are both classically trained so they both come to jazz with a little different perspective.

"Also Jerry Peek, Chip Lunsford and Larry Barker will be performing with us here in January. They will have a lot of friends to come and sit in, and I think that will be an added surprise."

Tickets still are available. Complimentary glasses, ice, set-ups, coffee and light snacks will be offered, which are included in the ticket price.