Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra

2021/2022 Season

Saturday, March 26

“Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song”

“First Lady of Song” with the Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra (SSJO) will feature Grammy-award winning vocalist Carmen Bradford celebrating the music of one of the most iconic vocalists in history-Ella Fitzgerald. This concert will explore her music over a nearly sixty-year career, from her early recordings with the legendary Chick Webb band at the famed Harlem ballroom “The Savoy” to illustrious collaborations with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and others. Her vocal stylings, scat singing, and lyric interpretation set a standard that has transformed popular vocalists for more than half a century. One cannot address nearly any form of popular music without studying and being influenced by her extraordinary output. She single-handedly transformed our country.

During the first half of the SSJO concert you will hear rare instrumental works that were recorded by the standard-bearer of Swing-Chick Webb. Diminutive in stature and overcoming severe physical handicaps, Chick was a drummer of great power, creativity, and drive.  As the house band at the famed “Savoy Ballroom” in Harlem, (1932-38) known as the “home of happy feet”, the Chick Webb band was the hottest ensemble on the east coast-taking on all comers in battles of swing-which more times than not, they emerged victorious! He also employed some of finest young performers of the time-including the legendary Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, Roy Eldridge, Don Redman, Louis Jordan and the genius arranger Edgar Samson-who penned such swing era hits as-Stompin’ at the Savoy  and  Benny Goodman’s theme, Don’t Be that Way.

The music was hot, inventive, and danceable. The legend goes that the floor of the Savoy, on the second level of a building on Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st streets in Harlem, would “flex” as many as 4000 dancers would stomp, sway, and swing their way into the early hours of the morning. We also cannot ignore the important cultural/social contribution of the Savoy; it was the first “non-segregated” ballroom in America. People of all races came together to participate in this music and, nearly as important, black bands and white bands performed together, competing in “battles”-providing ample fodder for the cross-pollination that has been at the hallmark of American music. The Webb aggregation was fearless and known for taking on all comers; they vanquished many of the best bands-Ellington, Basie, and Goodman all were on the receiving end of Chick’s form of swing justice!

On the SSJO program is music from Chick Webb; many of these works have rarely been heard outside of that ballroom. They still sound fresh, and interpreted by the uniquely gifted members of the SSJO, will feel like they were written yesterday. You will hear Harlem Congo, Spinnin’ the Webb, Liza, Strictly Jive, and the ubiquitous swing era anthem, Stompin’ at the Savoy all in their original versions. Also on the program is a selection from Duke Ellington’s “Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald” Total Jazz, composed in her honor in 1958.  Duke and Ella were very fond of each other; recording, touring, and performing together many times. Other instrumentals honoring Fitzgerald’s life and legacy including Sugar Hill Penthouse and the saxophone tour-de-force Cottontail, both by Ellington.

Carmen Bradford’s arrival in Springfield will add serious soul to the evenings proceedings; having toured the past 24 months both with the Count Basie Orchestra and in the role of Ella Fitzgerald in various formats. Ms. Bradford’s repertoire includes a host of Ella’s favorites including the hit that may have launched her career, A-Tisket-A-Tasket, the childhood rhyme put to rhythm and tune by the only recently passed Van Alexander. Ella’s work with the Basie Band, a natural fit for Ms. Bradford, includes the standards, All of Me, ‘Deed I Do, I’m Beginning to See the Light and The Very Thought of You.  Ella’s collaborations with Mr. Ellington are honored with Sweet Georgia Brown, and the haunting ballad Daydream.

The SSJO is composed of some of the finest jazz musicians in the region. Established artists blend with up-and-coming talent to create an ensemble of unparalleled power, finesse, and energy. Anchored by central Ohio natives, drummer Willie Barthel III and bassist George Delancey, the SSJO featured soloists include tenor saxophone powerhouse Eddie Bayard, a central Ohio legend with a national reputation for fire and soul; former OSU jazz faculty member Pharez Whitted on trumpet; southwest Ohio’s inimitable Hal Melia on tenor saxophone and clarinet; Christopher Anderson on trombone and 21-year-old baritone saxophonist Lauren Elliot.


Carmen Bradford is jazz royalty. Born in Austin, Texas and raised in Altadena, California, she is the third generation of an influential jazz family, growing up with music in her home and her heart. She is the daughter of legendary jazz cornetist/composer Bobby Bradford and world-renown jazz vocalist/composer Melba Joyce. Her grandfather, Melvin Moore, sang with Lucky Millender, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Ink Spots. Now playing an integral role in this uniquely America art form and its musical community, Carmen has carved out a place in music history for herself.

At 22, Carmen was discovered by William “Count” Basie, who quickly hired her — she was the featured vocalist in the Count Basie Orchestra for nine years. She performed on two Grammy-award winning albums with the Count Basie Orchestra in the 1980s. A later collaboration with Count Basie’s band and guitarist George Benson on the album Big Boss Band resulted in a third Grammy award in 1991.

She has performed and recorded with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Shelly Berg, John Clayton and the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, Nancy Wilson, Lena Horne, Doc Severinsen, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Joe Williams.  Carmen has also shared her talents on stage, as a voice-over artist, and in film.  She sang on the haunting soundtrack for Oprah Winfrey’s Beloved, has voiced many cartoon characters and radio commercials, and starred in the title role of Duke Ellington’s Folk Opera Queenie Pie at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music.

Her love of working with Big Bands and Symphony Orchestras across the world is keeping her busy, as she regularly pays tribute to the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald in her show called “A Century of Ella,” created and conducted by jazz great Jeff Tyzik.  Carmen has never stopped performing with her Basie family, the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra. Even after all these years, she continues to say, “When they call me, I go.” She has never forgotten Mr. Basie, who opened perhaps the most important door in her career and gave her wings. She was prominently featured on the band’s 2019 Grammy nominated album All About That Basie.

Carmen’s passion for teaching has been recognized by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in their new Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM) Program, where she serves as the head of the Jazz Voice Department. Her body of work reflects a depth of musical experience and technical brilliance, and she is recognized for the overwhelming passion she brings to the lyric. Carmen Bradford continues to contribute to the perpetuation and preservation of this great American art form called jazz.

Buy Tickets: $25 all seats, general admission

In-person from 8am-4pm, M-F at the Career ConnectEd Desk at the Dome or call 937-505-2945




Todd Stoll

In his three-decade career as an educator, administrator, performer and conductor, Todd Stoll has travelled to 4 continents and 22 countries bringing jazz to people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. After a 20-year career as an educator and band leader in central Ohio, Mr. Stoll became the Vice President of Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) in New York City, the world’s largest institution dedicated to jazz. Since he joined the organization in 2011, JALC has produced more than 25,000 education events in the US and abroad. In his position there, he has grown the education program exponentially, with a special focus on underserved populations in urban cities across America. JALC’s innovative Essentially Ellington high school jazz band program has expanded during his tenure, providing 300,000 free scores to nearly 7,000 high schools in all 50 states and 57 countries.

An experienced performer, Duke Ellington expert, and jazz advocate, Mr. Stoll founded the Columbus Jazz Youth Orchestra (CJYO) in 1991 to give young people the chance to cultivate a love of jazz through performance. He served as the director until 2011. Under his direction, the CJYO released six CDs, won a DownBeat award, and toured Europe and South America. As a performer, he has appeared with numerous ensembles across several genres, and can be heard on Sirius XM radio with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

An in demand conductor and clinician Mr. Stoll has appeared with numerous all state ensembles, the NAFME All National Honors Jazz Ensemble, and in Havana, Cuba at renowned music conservatories Amadeo Roldan and La Escuela Nacional de Arte.

Mr. Stoll holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from Miami University. He currently serves on the boards of the Jazz Education Network where he is President; the New York City chapter of Most Valuable Kids; and the National Association for Music Education Policy Roundtable.


Concert Dates


Springfield Symphony Jazz Orchestra
Todd Stoll, director
7:30 pm, John Legend Theater


Saturday, October 16

"Nothing But the Blues" 

It's the lifeblood of all America music, the spice in our daily discourse, a tonic against our trials. The blues is affirmation with absolute elegance. Join us in an exploration of the hues of the blues through jazz-from Louis Armstrong through Charles Mingus to Wynton Marsalis, the greatest jazz artists practiced, understood, and played the blues. The SSJO will bring back audience favorite, 21-year-old vocalist Christopher McDole for this soulful evening that will surely blow your blues away!


Saturday, March 26

“Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song”

A tribute to Ella featuring Grammy award winning singer, Carmen Bradford, celebrating the music of one of the most iconic vocalists in history.  This concert will explore Ella’s music over a nearly sixty-year career, from early recordings with the legendary Chick Webb to illustrious collaborations with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and others.  Her vocal stylings, scat singing, and lyric interpretation set a standard that has transformed popular vocalists for more than half a century.

Get Tickets: $25 all seats, general admission

In-person from 8am-4pm, M-F at the Career ConnectEd Desk at the Dome or call 937-505-2945




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