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Molter-led SJO kicks off with Freelon

Courtesy of Nnenna Freelon (Courtesy of Nnenna Freelon / The Spokesman-Review)
Courtesy of Nnenna Freelon (Courtesy of Nnenna Freelon / The Spokesman-Review)

As a longtime trombonist for the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, Tom Molter had the privilege of playing with world-renowned conductors, Grammy-caliber artists and the region’s top talent.

Now Molter is in charge of such shows for the SJO.

Molter makes his maiden voyage as the group’s new music director during Saturday’s season-opening concert featuring six-time Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon. It’s her second appearance with the SJO.

“There are several things to be excited about,” said Molter, who splits his time between teaching, composing and arranging. “Nnenna is one of the finest jazz vocalists of our time. We’re going to be performing some of her new material, which she’s constantly putting out, as well as big band pieces.”

Freelon marked 2008 with two releases on Concord Records: “Better Than Anything: The Quintessential Nenna Freelon” and “The Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary,” which features her in duets and group performances with Terrance Blanchard and James Moody.

She also recently teamed up with the Count Basie Orchestra, creating new music and arrangements for a collaborative record in the works.

The SJO’s 2009-2010 season continues with “Holiday Songs of Nat King Cole” with Horace Alexander Young on Dec. 5; “Swingin’ with the Piano Man” with Brent Edstrom on March 13; and “Memories in Song” with Greta Matassa on May 8.

Season and single-show tickets are on sale through TicketsWest.

As for the future of the SJO, Molter sees the group looking further toward the future, connecting with high schools and performing more community events.

“The SJO is going to be doing a lot more of the same while at the same time expanding our horizons,” he said. “We’re going to be doing more outreach concerts and definitely dance gigs … more recording and making more CDs.”

The orchestra also will appear in the “We Came to Play” concert with the Riverside High School Jazz Band and the Riverside Middle School Jazz Band on Monday at 7 p.m. at Riverside High School, 4120 E. Deer Park-Milan Road. Admission is free.