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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hip harmonies

Richie Cole, Five By Design combine for a swingin’ good time

“Cool and Swingin’ ” is the title of Saturday’s Spokane Symphony SuperPops concert, which should be your first hint that this will not be a solemn evening of Baroque harpsichord.

Your second and third hints: The guest artists will be the vocal jazz group Five By Design and alto sax master Richie Cole.

And in case you need more clues, the song titles include “Johnny’s Theme” – as in, the jaunty “Tonight” show opener – and “Harold’s House of Jazz.”

That tune might as well be renamed “Richie’s House of Jazz,” since that’s what the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox will become Saturday night.

Cole, who had a jazz hit with “New York Afternoon,” will join the Five By Design vocalists for a series of tunes incorporating an exhilarating jazz style called vocalese.

“Vocalese is the concept of putting words to an instrumental solo – every note of the solo is a word,” said Cole, by phone from his Los Angeles home.

“Eddie Jefferson created it back in the ’50s. Basically, this is my tribute to the great Eddie Jefferson and his influence on me as a young musician.”

The Minnesota-based Five By Design is an ideal instrument, you might say, for a vocalese extravaganza.

“They are exactly suited to my style, to doing my songs vocally,” said Cole. “They’re like studio singers, with the ability to sing complicated, very precise harmony parts.”

They are similar to Manhattan Transfer (the four-person group that has helped spread the vocalese gospel), yet with an “even fuller harmony,” said Cole. He said he took part in a concert in Minneapolis several years ago that included Five By Design and “took a liking to them immediately.”

Cole will also do a few instrumental numbers in his distinctive bebop style, which has been described as “fast and competitive.” You’ll hear “Harold’s House of Jazz,” “Waltz for a Rainy Bebop Evening” and “It’s the Same Thing Everywhere,” among others.

Five By Design will also perform many of their own signature tunes, backed by the Spokane Symphony led by Resident Conductor Morihiko Nakahara, including “Mercy, Mercy” and “Flyin’ Home.”

The entire evening will be structured in the style of a live radio show. You might even hear a few comic radio ads between songs. As SuperPops audiences discovered in 2006, Five By Design incorporates plenty of comedy into its act.

And when the concert is over, the Fox will continue to swing. A free after-party will take place in the lobby, featuring the music of 6 Foot Swing’s Heather Villa and Friends.

Stay behind and dance – or just listen. The lobby bar will stay open, to take care of everyone’s thirst-related needs.

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