May 13, 2009

SJO announces new Music Director and 2009-2010 concert season.

Tom Molter
has been chosen as the new music director for the Spokane Jazz Orchestra.  Following a nine month search process conducted by the Spokane Jazz Society, Molter follows Dan Keberle who directed the group for fifteen years. 

Molter leads a very active life as a music teacher, composer/arranger and performer.  As an educator he has taught at the elementary, middle school, high school, and collegiate levels.  He currently is Director of Bands at Evergreen Middle School in Spokane Valley, and also teaches jazz arranging at Eastern Washington University.  His award winning jazz compositions have been featured and performed at concert band, jazz band, and marching band festivals throughout the Pacific Northwest, and much of his music has been published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company, Neil Kjos Music Company, and Daniel Barry Publications.  His performance career as a professional trombonist and music director include extended engagements with Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the Tom Molter Big band, and the jazz sextet Kind of Blue.  Tom holds a Bachelor of Music degree in composition from the University of Idaho and a Teaching Certificate degree from Whitworth University.

SJO is also proud to announce its lineup for the 2009-2010 concert season at the Bing Crosby theater in downtown Spokane:

September 26, 2009
, Back By Popular Demand, the remarkable Nnenna Freelon

December 5, 2009, Holiday Songs of Nat King Cole with Horace Alexander Young

March 13, 2010, Swingin’ with the Piano Man featuring Brent Edstrom

May 8, 2010, Memories in Song with Greta Matassa

Single show tickets will go on sale through Ticketwest on August 1st.

Six-time GRAMMY® Award-nominee Nnenna Freelon has earned a well-deserved reputation as a compelling and captivating live performer, most recently in 2007 on In Performance At The White House to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. At the 43rd annual GRAMMY Awards telecast from Los Angeles, she inspired an enthusiastic standing ovation from 20,000 music-industry insiders and celebrities when she took to the stage. Prior to that stirring appearance, Freelon’s performances for the legendary Julie Andrews at the Society of Singers’ “Ella Awards,” Variety’s The Children’s Charity (as a featured vocalist at the Stephen Sondheim Tribute at Carnegie Hall), Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and at the most famous jazz festivals around the globe have all been rousing successes.

It has certainly been a heady decade for Freelon. In addition to five GRAMMY nominations while on the Concord label, Freelon also made her feature film debut in the Mel Gibson hit, What Women Want, and sang a remake of Sinatra’s classic, “Fly Me To The Moon” for The Visit, starring Billy Dee Williams. She is also a winner of the Eubie Blake Award, and has twice been nominated for the “Lady of Soul” Soul Train Award. What’s more, Freelon has performed and toured with a veritable who’s who in jazz, from Ray Charles and Ellis Marsalis to Al Jarreau and George Benson, among many others.

Born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Freelon received her undergraduate degree from Simmons College in Boston. Her parents and singing in the church gave the singer her first exposure to the arts, especially to the art of jazz. Her father’s playing Count Basie recordings and her mother’s active involvement in their church led Freelon to an appreciation of all music which she eventually pursued as a career in jazz.
”Freelon had no problem charming the audience with a bright, rhythmically infectious performance.” --Mike Joyce, The Washington Post
”Freelon makes each song such a personal statement that they all seem fresh and new...” --Steve Jones, USA Today
”Nnenna Freelon possesses that rarest of qualities... she makes (standards) sound freshly minted, refreshingly new... her phrasing is original, surprising... she mines the (melodies) for new and hidden meaning... and imaginative spirit that reaches out and bubbles over...” --Robert L. Daniels, Variety
”...there is no doubt that Freelon has now positioned herself in the very top echelon...” --Don Heckman,Los Angeles Times

When one usually hears Horace Alexander Young’s name mentioned in a conversation about singing, it most often refers to his long, well documented career as a vocal coach and arranger with a wide variety of great song stylists and performers. For the last two decades, such artists as B.B.King, The Manhattans, The Chi-Lites, Anita Moore, Yvonne Roome, Gerald Alston, Regina Belle, Johnny Kemp, Lucy Arnaz, and many others have utilized Young’s varied skills to enhance their live performances and recordings. However, the secret to his understanding of creating a great musical environment around these singers is his own less publicized singing ability. Young grew up in a household with parents and his two sisters all of whom loved music. He was nurtured on the recordings of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Al Martino, Arthur Prysock, Stevie Wonder, Joe Williams, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and in particular, Nat King Cole. It is from these early influences, that he borrowed the key elements of style, tone, diction and stage presence that forms his skill set as a vocal performer. While the majority of his musical accomplishments have been on the instrumental side, he is nonetheless, one of the more gifted and original song stylists and vocal scat soloists in the jazz arena today.  His future recordings will reflect more of a mix of his skills in this area, but until then you  will just have to catch him  in live performances. In recent years, he has appeared as a soloist with the Spokane Pops Orchestra, The Coeur d’Alene Symphony, The Spokane Jazz Orchestra, The Washington-Idaho Symphony and in numerous jazz club appearances with the Dozier-Jarvis-Young Quartet and his own touring unit. Interested listeners should continued to stay tuned - Horace Alexander Young is a “new voice” in the global landscape of Jazz that is deserving  to be heard.

Brent Edstrom teaches jazz piano and coordinates the jazz combo, music theory, and composition programs at Whitworth University. He is one of the most sought after and often requested jazz pianists in the Pacific Northwest, and performs often in all parts of the USA. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in classical piano performance from Washington State University and a Master of Music degree in jazz studies and contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music. Edstrom's active performance career has placed him on stage with many well-known performers including Clark Terry, Ernie Watts, Lee Konitz, John Faddis, Bob Berg, Bob Mintzer and Peter Erskin. In addition to teaching and performing, Edstrom is active as a composer and arranger. He currently works as a freelance writer and arranger for Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. Highlights of publishing work include transcriptions and arrangements of the music of Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Barron and many others. Edstrom has completed several new publications including Musicianship In the Digital Age, distributed nationally by Thomson Learning, and Bill Evans Signature Licks, Hard Bop For Piano, and Latin Jazz Piano, distributed by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. He is currently at work conducting research on the topic of music-notation algorithms in the C++ computer language.

In the Pacific Northwest, where she built her career, Greta Matassa wins wide acclaim; four times, the readers of Earshot, the Seattle jazz magazine, have voted her the best jazz vocalist in the Northwest. Jim Wilke, the Seattle jazz maven and host of the syndicated "Jazz after Hours" radio program, praises her versatility. "She has a fearlessness in approaching material,” Wilke says, "that makes her like an instrumentalist in a jam session.” Seattle Times critic Misha Berson described Matassa as a vocal chameleon who "can sound husky or crisp, ebullient or wailing, girlish or jaded.” Matassa displays all of those aspects of her talent in this live recording made at Bake's Place, a small club in Redmond, across Lake Washington from Seattle.

Matassa's fascination with songs began early. Her family moved frequently when she was small, but by the time she entered middle school, they had settled on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, opposite Seattle. This is what she said about her childhood: "Growing up, my parents were big jazz fans and we had a lot of jazz music around the house. They were happy to encourage my interest in music. My father is a visual artist, and we used to spend hours talking about abstract expressionism and how that related to jazz. "We listened to all the great stuff. I really liked the music from the thirties and forties, early Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday. I used to listen to a lot of Fred Astaire, a lot of Frank Sinatra. I never took lessons. While I was teaching myself to sing, my dad and I haunted used record stores. He'd choose anybody he knew that he thought would be interesting, and we'd just pick some people we'd never heard of and bring them home.

"I listened to instrumentalists, too, including Dizzy Gillespie and Art Farmer. My dad had a lot of West Coast jazz, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond. I listened to them, but I focused on the singers. I learned by singing along with them. I decided I wasn't going to be disciplined enough to do scales, so I thought, 'why don't I just see if I can find out how Billie Holiday got that sound and how Carmen McRae got her sound.' I'd sing with them over and over. I call it standing on the shoulders of giants. You sort of go along for the ride and see what it feels like. Then, as I got a chance to sing with rhythm sections, I'd experiment, throwing in an Ella Fitzgerald lick or a Sarah Vaughan lick, but at the same time struggling with how to become an individual, which is a lifelong endeavor.

For more information please contact:

Tom Molter, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 435-1007
Melinda Keberle, Spokane Jazz Society President, 324-8828