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Monday, June 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Jazz finale presents five ‘divas’

The Spokane Jazz Orchestra’s final concert of the season features five jazz “divas,” all of them well-known in the Inland Northwest:

Ann Fennessy – One of the region’s most in-demand singers, performing everything from ragtime to classical. She has performed at the Smithsonian and at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Naomi Dunning – The featured vocalist for the local big-band group Men of Rhythm and its spin-off quintet, 5MOR. By day she’s an executive assistant at Spokane Transit Authority; by night she works toward fulfilling her childhood dream of being a big-band singer.

Leslie Ann Grove – She was the co-owner of Spokane’s late jazz club, Ella’s, and served as its music director for many years. When not demonstrating her jazz talents, she is an attorney in Spokane.

Jennifer Stott Madsen – She’s a singer, actress, director, teacher and composer who amassed an impressive number of professional credits while living in L.A. Her voice is heard on ad jingles for Levi Strauss, Sprite and Wendy’s.

Madsen performed in many musicals in L.A. After coming to Spokane, she appeared in the film “Home of the Brave,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Kristina Ploeger – She’s the artistic director of the Spokane Area Children’s Chorus as well as a full-time assistant professor at Eastern Washington University. She has performed jazz residencies at Amherst College and Smith College, among others.

They will sing the songs of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. SJO music director Dan Keberle said it will be a chance to hear them interpret “some very well-known songs in their own inimitable way.”

This concert will be notable for another reason: It will be Keberle’s final concert as music director, after 15 years in that post.

He announced his resignation at the beginning of the season, saying he was “starting to run out of steam” and that it was time to let someone else take over.

So Saturday’s concert will be an audition for Greg Yasinitsky, the second of two finalists for the music director post.

Yasinitsky, director of jazz studies at Washington State University, has performed with Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, to name just a few, and has published 150 musical works. He’s a top saxophonist as well as a composer and arranger.

He will take over for several numbers on Saturday, including “Night and Day,” “Blue Skies” and “They Say It’s Wonderful.”

The other finalist, composer, arranger and SJO trombonist Tom Molter, auditioned during the orchestra’s March concert.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at

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