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Mace Hibbard Quintet: Future of jazz 

Saxophonist draws from family of musicians

Once saxophonist Mace Hibbard starts talking about his family, it's easy to understand why he's a professional instrumentalist and where his classical, rock, funk and R&B influences come from. Music is in his genes.

"My whole family is musicians," he says. "My dad is a trumpet player, my mom was an elementary and middle school music teacher, my sister's an opera singer. The way I got into music was just growing up around it."

Hibbard, who fronts his own band comprised of pianist Louis Heriveaux, guitarist Bryan Leitch, bassist Marc Miller and drummer Justin Varnes, recently won the Straight Ahead Instrumental Future of Jazz competition. The win secures him a spot on the Atlanta Jazz Festival stage Memorial Day weekend.

Though Hibbard played last year's festival as a sideman, this will be his first performance as a leader. He also gets to play with his band, musicians he's gigged with since moving to Atlanta in 2003.

"We're all kind of the same age. We all like the same music," he says. "We just like hanging out together."

The quintet heads back to the studio this fall to record a follow-up to 2006's When Last We Met. On the disc, Hibbard forms melodic improvisations, pasting together sixteenth-note phrases that propel him ever faster.

Even with his upbringing, Hibbard didn't come to jazz until high school.

"I had hated jazz up to that point," he says. "It's the sort of thing that happens when you're a kid and your dad is always playing it."

But once he picked up the saxophone, he knew it was for him, whether baritone, tenor, alto or soprano.

"To me a saxophone is a saxophone," he said. "I just play it."

Mace Hibbard Quintet. $10. Fri.-Sat., April 25-26. Churchill Grounds, 660 Peachtree St. 404-876-3030.

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