The trumpet was Jeff Paull's musical instrument of choice before practicing at his apartment didn't sit well with his neighbors. Then, he took up the saxophone and hasn't looked back since.

So when he decided to learn the saxophone in earnest, his wife gifted him with saxophone lessons. Through his lessons, Paull found out that a new jazz band needed a saxophone player; that was how he joined the Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education's Jazz Band in 1999.

Since then, the band has evolved through the years, and some musicians have come and gone. When the previous band director left, a lot of good musicians left as well, Paull said.

But more than a year ago, saxophonist Max Pricco stepped in as the band's director and brought the band back to its glory days, Paull said.

"Max came in at a little bit of a lull time, a difficult time in the band's history," said Paull, who lives in Walnut Creek. "We lost part of our rhythm section, which is a very important part of the band. We needed good players and needed a good rhythm section. Max recruited good players and now, we have a good rhythm section again."

The public will get to hear Paull and his fellow band members, directed by Pricco, at a 7:30 p.m. concert March 7 at the Walnut Creek Library. Jazz and swing takes center stage as Pricco directs the band to entertain audience members with favorites including tunes by Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Paul Desmond and Tower of Power.


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Pricco said he wanted to do a Tower of Power chart to give the public a preview of the band's April 14 concert featuring guest musician Mic Gillette, a trumpet player with Tower of Power.

Directing the jazz band has been an honor for Pricco, who grew up in the heart of the local jazz scene -- Concord. The city hosted the Concord Jazz Festival, which was originally held not too far from Concord High School, from which Pricco graduated.

"Dad wanted me to play saxophone so I could work my way through college," said Pricco, whose parents gave him the saxophone when he was 10 years old. He transferred from UC Davis where he was a political science major to San Francisco State to study music, focusing on woodwinds.

While he played with high school bands and with local bands during college, Pricco set his heart on the Concord Jazz Festival. While on a summer break from college, Pricco, who had just returned from being on the road with a Top 40 band, called up the Concord Jazz Festival organizers to see if they needed a stagehand. He ended up speaking to a man who was a drum major at Pricco's high school marching band.

"He said, 'Would you like to pick up (American jazz alto saxophonist) Phil Woods at the airport?' "

Because the Concord Jazz Festival was launched by Carl Jefferson, who was both a jazz enthusiast and a car dealer, Pricco said he was honored to chauffeur Woods in a Lincoln Continental.

Here he was this college kid and "I'm driving one of the jazz fest headliners around," Pricco said. "I got to watch Phil perform."

It proved to be one of his fondest memories in Pricco's musical history.

These days, besides directing the band, Pricco's repertoire includes teaching music private lessons at his studio and teaching music at Walnut Acres School. He believes in quality music education for young people and knows firsthand the benefits of a music education during one's formative years.

Having the jazz band play at a public venue like the library gives the jazz genre the attention it deserves, Paull said.

"Kids don't listen to jazz. It's hard to find on the radio," he said. "Kids aren't exposed to jazz -- other styles of music have taken over. I'm really hoping we can spread this music -- which has a lot of soul and energy--around. Maybe we can catch people at the library unaware or don't know what this music is all about and maybe knock their socks off."

The jazz band is where it is today thanks to Pricco's efforts, Paull said.

"We thank Max for shepherding the band through a very critical period and for keeping the band going," Paull said. "It's been a joy to play with the jazz band. Those of us who've been with the band a long time have watched the musicians develop and we've seen how they've evolved and gotten to be really good players. It's really great to have a community band of all ages for all ages. It keeps the old players young and the young players motivated."

Max Pricco and the Walnut Creek Civic Arts Jazz Band
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. March 7
WHERE: Walnut Creek Library
INFORMATION: Space is limited. Call 925-943-5846, or visit www.maxpriccomusic.com