Check it out: Springfield’s jazz orchestra opener to salute local, Ohio jazz legends

The Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra will kick off its third season with a nod to the Champion City and other Ohio musicians.

Saturday’s show, “Hometown Heroes,” is a salute to jazz legends who lived here or passed this way at 7:30 p.m. at the John Legend Theater.

Fresh off their closing performance with rising jazz star Samara Joy at the first Springfield Jazz and Blues Festival in August, the 17-piece orchestra will get back to its home base with more home in mind. Music by Springfield’s own Johnny Lytle, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Sir Charles Thompson, Billy Strayhorn, Tadd Dameron, Snooky Young and others will be part of the program.

Director Todd Stoll knew this was the show he’d wanted on the schedule for a while.

“It was an idea I had when I started the Jazz Orchestra,” he said. “We have so many journeymen jazz musicians locally.”

Stoll, who works at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s education program in New York City, got to know Grammy-winning producer and music historian Phil Schaap, who inspired him, talking about little-known performers like Earle Warren, a lead alto saxophone player who grew up and died in Springfield.

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“He teased me and I did research into Springfield musicians and the first 70 years or so of jazz is filled with a lot of characters,” said Stoll.

Lytle, who recently got a mural dedicated to him on the side of Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company and had several family members in for a tribute concert, will be well represented.

The group got a grant for band member George Delancey to do new arrangements of Lytle tunes including “Done It Again”, “Bag a Bones”, “Sleepy Dozer” and “Happy Preacher”. Stoll describes Lytle’s tunes as being from the joyful side of jazz that can’t help but bring a smile, and also a chance to introduce Lytle to a new audience.

“People will drive by Johnny Lytle Avenue but may not know the man behind the name,” he said.

Most of the SSJO performers will return with Sydney McSweeney on vocals, while Maria Marmarou will make her debut on drums. Stoll said to also watch for vibraphonist Joshua Strange, a Fairmont High School graduate who knows his Lytle music and works with rap and hip hop artists, showing his music versatility or having a foot in both camps, Stoll said.

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The orchestra has built a following the past few years and the success of the recent Springfield Jazz and Blues Festival has Stoll hoping for more new fans.

“We want people to see us not as a museum piece, but that jazz belongs to all of us,” he said.

The orchestra will also perform a Christmas concert at Mother Stewart’s at a date to be announced in December and will finish its season with a March 18 show at the John Legend Theater.


HOW TO GO

What: Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra – Hometown Heroes

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

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24

Admission: $30

More info: springfieldsym.org/springfield-symphony-jazz-orchestra/

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