The Spokane Jazz Orchestra kicks off its season with a heavyweight jazz name: Feather.
That’s Lorraine Feather, who has jazz in her genes. She’s the goddaughter of Billie Holiday and the daughter of one of the best-known jazz writers of all time, Leonard Feather.
She’s also a well-known jazz singer and even better-known jazz lyricist. Both talents will be on display tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater when she joins Spokane’s venerable 17-piece big band for a show billed as “Hot Jazz from the Cotton Club.”
“It’s going to be a total Roaring ’20s type of program,” said Tom Molter, the Spokane Jazz Orchestra director. “It’s music from the speakeasies; we’re calling it ‘underground music from the ’20s.’ ”
The first half of the program will be all-instrumental, with two early Louis Armstrong tunes, “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” and “Potato Head Blues,” and a suite of Duke Ellington tunes from the Cotton Club from 1927 to 1932.
The second half will feature Feather, who lives on the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. On her website, she calls this a rare opportunity to perform the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn classics from her album “Such Sweet Thunder – Music of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.”
Feather has written her own additional lyrics to these classics. The SJO will be using the Bill Elliott horn charts from her album.
She’ll also do a Fats Waller tune or two, also with her own lyrics.
Feather has a rich background in music, beginning with a childhood peppered with names like Holiday and Peggy Lee. Her father was a pianist and jazz composer as well as the chief jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times.
After a brief stint as an actress, she began pursuing her own musical career. Here are some highlights:
• She was in the L.A. vocal trio Full Swing, and wrote most of the lyrics for the group.
• She has written songs for a number of Disney TV and movie projects, including “Jungle Book II” and “The Princess Diaries II.”
• She sang on the “Dick Tracy” soundtrack.
• She has recorded a number of solo CDs, including “Café Society,” “Such Sweet Thunder” and “Dooji Wooji.”
• Her two most recent CDs, “Language” and “Ages,” made it high onto the jazz airplay and sales charts.
Feather is especially respected for her gifts as a lyricist.
“Among contemporaries, her poet’s precision of language is on a level not heard since pop lyricists like Joni Mitchell or Randy Newman…” said the All About Jazz website. “Her sensitivity to the subtleties of syntax, plus the exactness of her meter and rhyming, are unparalleled.”
She and her husband Tony Morales, a drummer, moved from L.A. to San Francisco in the late 1990s and then moved to the San Juan Islands in 2007. But that doesn’t mean Feather has given up her performing career.
Soon after tonight’s gig, she’ll head down to L.A. to perform at Vitello’s Jazz and Supper Club.