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SALT LAKE CITY -- Six top-flight jazz musicians will be in town Friday night. They are offering their services free, hoping people will buy fundraiser tickets to help keep a unique music institution alive.
Jazz musicians around the world, like percussionist Jeff Hamilton, have come to think of Salt Lake as a special place to play.
"The audiences are terrific here. Everything you do, they're right there with you on every move that you make, and they're so appreciative," Hamilton said.
Renowned bass player John Clayton has made several trips to the Jazz at the Sheraton series. "It's almost like playing for the home team when we're here. I feel when we're on stage playing, it's as if we know everyone," he said.
The 15th season wrapped up last month. The typical crowd of 1,100 may be small by rock concert standards, but that's OK with famed pianist Monty Alexander.
"Jazz wasn't necessarily meant to play in a stadium, because it's a personal thing. It's like people who like the finest wine," Alexander said.
On Friday they'll return to play a benefit concert. "When we have a chance to pay back, we do," Clayton said.
It's a $100-a-ticket concert and reception to insure there's enough money for a 16th season. For the last five years, Gordon Hanks of the GAM Foundation has personally underwritten Jazz at the Sheraton. The musicians say he's a big reason it succeeds.
"There's just a mutual appreciation. I feel it very strongly here," Alexander said.
Also flying in: singer Dee Daniels, flute player Holly Hofman and pianist Mike Wofford. The benefit concert is not at the Sheraton. It is on the campus of Westminster College, in Vieve Gore Hall, Friday night at 7 p.m.