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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A jazzy little Christmas

SJO, vocalist Carruthers put modern spin on the season

Every year, Spokane Jazz Orchestra gets in the holiday spirit with their swinging takes on seasonal favorites, and this weekend they’ll be channeling the spirit of the Big Apple with “Christmas in New York.”

Spokane native Charlotte Carruthers, now living in Seattle, will be singing several numbers with the orchestra, an occasion SJO director Tom Molter says is always welcome.

“It’s always kind of a homecoming to have Charlotte come sing with the SJO,” he said. “She always makes the band and the audience feel really comfortable. She walks out on the stage and people just love her immediately. She’s got a vibrant personality that comes out onstage.”

The evening’s program is an intriguing blend of traditional yuletide tunes – you’ll hear renditions of “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” – and some unexpected, less traditional classics: Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” an unusual take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and a special arrangement of “New York, New York” that Carruthers’ father, legendary jazz pianist Arnie Carruthers, wrote specifically for her to perform.

“It has the essence and the flavor of the New York jazz scene,” Molter said of the program. “With the instrumental music that we’re going to play, there’s a lot of focus on the individual musicians improvising. If you’ve ever been to New York, all the big bands play what I like to call ‘real jazz’ – all the musicians in the band can improvise. We’re going to feature just about every member of the band with improvised solos.”

Last year’s Christmas concert had more of a focus on sounds from the big band era, but Molter says this year’s roster of more modern music is perfect for the current season.

“We’re trying to create that atmosphere of being downtown in the city on a cold winter’s night, walking into a club and hearing this music,” he said. “We’re always trying to take you somewhere else with our concerts. We’re playing songs that people are going to recognize and really enjoy.”

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