Springfield’s Jazz Orchestra to highlight music of Sinatra, Basie

Sometimes the universe sends a sign, and Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra (SSJO) executive director Todd Stoll got a unique one for this weekend’s concert. As he went to a lounge in New York’s LaGuardia Airport waiting for a flight back to Ohio, he was greeted with the Frank Sinatra standard “Come Fly with Me,” which will be one of the tunes.

The collaboration of two 20th Century legends will be celebrated with “Basie Swings, Sinatra Sings” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the John Legend Theater. Tickets are still available.

Stoll said when he established the SSJO, this was one of the shows he wanted to do, and it’s not just about the two legends, but what their unlikely collaboration meant in a bigger sense.

“You had the biggest white superstar with the bastion of African-American culture, and it started in the early 1960s when the Civil Rights era was happening, and they wanted to make sure and get it correct,” he said. “It was a major step forward for integration and put Quincy Jones in front on that album. The music is absolutely timeless.”

The songs will include a slate of classics including “Fly Me to the Moon,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “The Best is Yet to Come.”

Stoll said most people don’t think about Sinatra and jazz, but he got that 4/4 swing better than anybody. To do it justice, Stoll needed the right soloist and chose Rob Lee, a young man from Tucson, Ariz. Stoll met him as a Julliard student.

“I needed someone who was serious about the Great American Songbook and the art of storytelling, and Rob was it,” Stoll said.

Lee will also play piano and has previously performed here at one of Stoll’s Red Hot Holiday Jazz Stomp concerts. Stoll said he likes to expose talented young performers on their way up to local audiences.

Another notable connection is the SSJO’s drummer Maria Marmarou also now subs in with the current version of the Count Basie Orchestra.

This is the final concert of the SSJO season and will next perform here on Aug. 10 as part of the third Springfield Jazz and Blues Festival. Stoll encourages everyone to come experience the music Saturday.

“Basie and Sinatra – what could be better, more American and uplifting,” he said. “If you don’t know if you like jazz or swing, come see if you do because this is toe-tapping, feel-good music.”


What: Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra – “Basie Swings, Sinatra Swings”

Where: John Legend Theater at The Dome, 700 S. Limestone St., Springfield

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23

Admission: $30

More info: springfieldsym.org/ssjo2324/

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