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Oldies but goodies can still jazz it up

CU: (Ran North, South editions)

All 11 of the Profiles in Jazz band members are more than 70 years old now (at least one is in his 80s), but most of them have been playing saxophone, trumpet, trombone, drum, flute, guitar or piano since their ages were in the single digits.

"We have a wealth of experience in this band," said Bob Thomas, the front man, guitarist and leader of the group.

"Nine out of our 11 members played with big bands," he said. Those bands included Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Les Elgart, Tony Pastor, Stan Kenton, Louis Prima and Tex Beneke.

Thomas and his group will bring those years of experience to the Stage West Community Playhouse's Forum on Saturday and Sunday for two, two-hour concerts. Singer Lorri Hafer will join the band for the Sunday performance.

"The band has been together for 14 years," Thomas said. Many of the members had met each other when they played with various bands during their earlier professional careers.

Trombone player Allan Langstaff, a veteran of the Krupa, Prima and Claude Thornhill bands, starting getting together with other St. Petersburg area retirees in 1992. Since then, players have come and gone; Thomas, who had organized and led dozens of bands in New York, joined the group eight years ago.

"Musicians never retire," Thomas said. "We play every month for Bay Pines, and we play at the Sunshine Center near the Coliseum and at the Palladium."

Thomas and his band were invited to play at Stage West by the late Alice Hughes, a longtime friend of the Thomas family.

"We're dedicating this show to Bill and Alice Hughes," Thomas said.

The program includes jazz favorites as well as some Broadway tunes. "We're trying to keep the jazz tradition alive," Thomas said.

Thomas recently gathered photos of several band members from their early years.

"I wonder if people will recognize them the way they look today," he said, as he looked at current photos beside the older ones.

If you go

WHAT: Profiles in Jazz concert

WHERE: The Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $12. Box office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and an hour before each show. Call (352) 683-5113.

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