Mark Towns could barely contain his excitement on October 20. The guitarist's debut CD, Flamenco Jazz Latino, featuring Kirk Whalum and Hubert Laws, had just hit local stores and was making its way to radio stations across the country. For the 45-year-old pro, it was time to promote the project and perhaps even earn a few dividends from all those dues he had been paying. Then a freak accident happened. Towns was working on his car at his mechanic's garage when a customer ran into him. He was pinned between two vehicles, and his ankles were crushed. He spent a week in the hospital, but even after he was released, Towns couldn't stand on his own for a few more weeks. He didn't play a gig for six weeks, and he's still in a wheelchair.

Leave it to the Houston jazz community to band together for one of its own. Knowing that Towns's medical bills are mounting and that his lack of gigs means a lack of income, vocalist Dana Rogers has organized the Mark Towns Benefit Concert. In essence, it's an old-fashioned jam session to raise money for a fellow musician. Some of Houston's top jazzers, including pianist Ken Ward, trumpeter Dennis Dotson, bassist Erin Wright and drummer Tim Solook (who's about to defect to New York), all have committed their time, while a number of other first-rate musicians are expected to bring their axes and donate their services. Donations will be accepted throughout the night. With a bunch of top players blowing for a good cause, this should be one of the best nights of jazz in recent memory.

It may not be the kind of support Towns envisioned back in October, but it undoubtedly feels just as good.

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