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Guest conductor teases out the jazz

Catingub, who’s toured with some of the greats, leads symphony, cabaret vocalist Crawford

The Fox Theater and the Spokane Symphony will be swinging this weekend.

Under the direction of guest conductor Matt Catingub, and with his longtime drummer Steve Moretti and guest vocalist Abbey Crawford, the symphony will trade in the works of Beethoven and Bach for big band-era jazz.

Catingub, a pianist, saxophone player, singer, composer and arranger, grew up around jazz. His mother was jazz singer Mavis Rivers, and he’s toured with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Rosemary Clooney. He said Saturday’s Superpops concert will be a celebration of big band music past and present.

“It’s not a nostalgia show,” he said by phone earlier this week. “But it’s definitely going to be a tip of the hat.”

The playlist includes music by Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and a tribute to his late friend and mentor Clooney, all arranged by Catingub.

Catingub hasn’t worked with either the symphony or Crawford before, which is pretty typical of the gigs in which he parachutes in for the weekend. Before Saturday’s show, they’ll all get together and rehearse once. Then it’s showtime. He’s looking forward to seeing if the Spokane Symphony has a few “closet jazzers” in its ranks.

“I hope the orchestra has a good time, and I want to be able to convey that to the audience,” Catingub said. “I definitely want to cut loose.”

And after seeing clips of Crawford performing on YouTube, he’s eager to see what she’s got.

“She’s getting a chance to shine in this show as well,” Catingub said.

Crawford calls the opportunity to do a pops concert with the Spokane Symphony a bucket list event. When she got the call, she was in the car with her daughter. “I was jumping up and down in my car seat, if you can do that in car. My daughter said, ‘Oh, Mom are you excited?’ and I told her, ‘Oh, honey, you have no idea.’ ”

A veteran actress and singer, Crawford will perform seven Ella Fitzgerald songs. Some of them she knew before this process began, others she’s had to learn.

“I think my favorite at this point is ‘I Love Paris,’ ” she said. “It’s such a beautiful piece of music and (Catingub’s) arrangement is just so lush.”

She’s performed on many of Spokane’s stages – the Bing, Interplayers, Civic, the INB among them. This is her first time on stage at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

“I’m over the moon about it. I’m very excited. I’ve been planning my outfit and everything for months,” she said. “You always want things like this to be perfect.”

This style of music is certainly in Crawford’s wheelhouse, as she performs it frequently with her cabaret act.

It’s in Catingub’s wheelhouse as well. He attributes the enduring popularity of big band music to its inherent quality.

“You can’t knock great songs,” he said. “It’s never gone away. If you go to see Michael Bublé or Harry Connick Jr., that’s big band jazz.”