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If you go
What: The Mark Maxwell Sax Experience
Where: Philmore On Broadway, 2441 Broadway
When: 9 p.m. today
Admission: Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door; call 800-599-9820 for information and reservations
Courtesy photo
Fort Wayne native Mark Maxwell will play monthly at the Philmore.

Saxophonist returns to changed city

One of the first things that jazz saxophonist Mark Maxwell noticed when he returned to Fort Wayne from the West Coast after a more-than-30-year absence was all the avocados.

Well, maybe it wasn’t one of the first things.

It’s not as if avocados grow on trees here, literally or figuratively. But three decades ago, a person could not buy an avocado in Fort Wayne, Maxwell says.

“No one even knew what an avocado was,” he says.

Since then, Fort Wayne has smartened up a lot about avocados and other former ephemera. It is now a city with a vibrant jazz scene, a scene that will have Maxwell on it and in it starting tonight.

The Mark Maxwell Sax Experience will start performing a monthly gig at 9 p.m. today at the Philmore On Broadway.

The band, which features Michael Patterson on bass, Cliff Webb on guitar and Steve Smeltzer on drums, is scheduled to perform again Nov. 9 and Dec. 14.

The food this evening will be catered by Catablu Grill, the eatery that moved to Covington Plaza from the Philmore’s current locale in 2009.

Up to now, the Philmore On Broadway has primarily been a venue for sporadic concerts and special events. But its owners decided to test out a more predicable schedule.

“(Co-owner Joel Fremion) had this idea of doing this kind of regular jazz night/jazz supper club,” Maxwell says. “He wondered if we’d be the house band.”

“He wanted to offer the place to the community in a more open way,” he says.

While he was on the West Coast, Maxwell sold a half-million copies of 11 CDs, was a member of a band whose rehearsals were often visited by Joe Cocker, auditioned for the Tower of Power horns and performed as a part of the 1984 Olympics.

When Maxwell returned to Fort Wayne in 2010 to take a job at Sweetwater Sound, he says he and his Detroit-born wife were a little leery of Fort Wayne. But the couple have found the city a place with “a lot of nice people and a lot of cool things to do.”

“When I left 30 years ago, Fort Wayne wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as it is now,” he says.