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Columbus jazz group to honor former Beatles saxophonist

Gene Walker Experience' is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb 17 at The King Arts Complex.

The Beatles, The Platters, Sam Cooke and The Drifters all have something in common. Not only have they been hailed as great musicians, but they all toured with saxophonist Gene Walker, who calls Columbus home.

Walker will be honored at 7 p.m. Friday at The King Arts Complex, located at 867 Mount Vernon Ave.

The King Arts Complex, in collaboration with the Urban Jazz Collective and SCAT present “Jazz on the Avenue: Gene Walker Experience.” The evening will feature jazz musicians including Eddie Bayard, Shawn “Thunder” Wallace, Martin William and Lee Savory. Ted McDaniel, Ohio State professor of African

American music and leader of the OSU Jazz Ensemble, will be conducting.

Walker, the honoree of the evening, said the event isn’t just a celebration, it is a feat in itself. He said he looks forward to the accomplishment as much as the company.

“Celebrating the bicentennial of Columbus and also the Black History month, this particular concert may never happen again — this is a one time thing,” Walker said. “We are like a big family, and you know how important family is. We are going to have a wonderful time.”

Jevon Collins, King Arts Complex program director, said Walker and the city of Columbus share the same birthday, Feb. 14, and the event will help to honor them and open the eyes of younger generations.

“Most people, young people … we always see big band stuff on TV,” Collins said. “This will actually be seeing something in person, live. We’re compiling some of the greatest jazz musicians in the region.”

McDaniel said Walker is a “delightful spirit” who always has a smile on his face.

“Not only is he a terrific musician, and has been for years, he is a personal friend and a joy to be around,” McDaniel said. “He certainly deserves it and has been a musical pillar in the city of Columbus.”

McDaniel acknowledged Walker’s string of medical issues, but said he is excited to hear Walker play.

“I’m glad he will have his saxophone,” McDaniel said. “He hasn’t been in the best of health recently, but it will be good to hear him.”

Immediately after the concert, there will be birthday celebration for Walker featuring a “jam session” by The Gene Walker Quartet.

Tickets are $20 for non-members and $15 for members.

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