As is the case with most musical pairings, the duo of Gary Wittner and Howard Johnson happened by chance.

Wittner and Johnson, who will be performing their jazz concert at Kresge on Saturday at 3:00 p.m., met at a restaurant in New York City. When Johnson overheard a conversation between Wittner and another musician at a separate table, he joined in the discussion.

For Wittner and Johnson, this innocent conversation between the accomplished guitarist and renowned tuba soloist led first to a recording session, then on to two critically acclaimed jazz albums and tours around New England and the Midwest.

"Howard is one of the real veterans on the jazz scene," Wittner said. "I learn something every time I play with him, so it's been terrific musically for me."

Now, Wittner and Johnson bring their brand of jazz to Bowdoin. Many music students and other students wandering around Gibson Hall may have already heard bits and pieces of Wittner's jazz, as he is the applied music professor for guitar. Delmar Small, the department's concert, budget, and equipment manager, said that the college found Wittner though jazz contacts in the area. As a local from Raymond, Small knew that much of the community would want to hear Wittner perform in concert.

"Typically, local musicians have their own groupies," Small said. "We like to feature faculty, since the community likes to hear the people who are teaching. It really brings it home."

In addition to Wittner's role as an adjunct faculty member at Bowdoin, his teaching experience also extends to the University of Maine in Augusta, where he received the University's Distinguished Scholar Award in 1996, and he was also part of the original faculty at the International Summer Jazz Academy in Krakow, Poland. Wittner has met a variety of students in his many years teaching, from virtuoso prodigies in Europe to non-music majors at Bowdoin, and said that it all comes down to what people are there for. For him, teaching is about "communicating with people. With the right person in the room, it's fun?you're giving something and getting something and having a successful human exchange." Wittner continued, "When students have respect for the music and are willing to have fun, it's almost always a positive experience."

Much of Wittner's music, in addition to his original compositions, focuses on jazz great Thelonious Monk. Wittner discovered Monk as a student of veterinary medicine at Cornell, when a jazz fan in the dorm played a Monk album. For Wittner, the music spoke to him immediately, a rarity for Monk since his rhythms are unique and usually an acquired taste.

"My theory is that Monk's rhythms were already in my body, as we all have rhythms in our bodies, and that's why they spoke to me so strongly," Wittner said. "His rhythms opened up the doorway to rhythms that were already there."

Wittner left Cornell and began studying Monk at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, graduating in 1981 and completing a thesis of Monk's compositions in 1986.

Johnson has his own connections to Monk, as he was a major part of the New York music scene in the 1960s and met Monk, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderly. He has also worked with an impressive and eclectic list of musicians, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Marvin Gaye, Frank Zappa, John Lennon, and Paul Simon.

Who knows, those who attend the concert on Saturday afternoon may find their own rhythms to open doorways.