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BPO gives a toast to two jazz greats

It’s almost impossible for mere mortals to step into the shoes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, but Byron Stripling and Marva Hicks, by all accounts, do a great job of it. They’ll be stepping out into the spotlight this weekend, singing at Kleinhans Music Hall as part of a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s pops concert “Ella, Louis and All That Jazz.”

Hicks grew up singing gospel music and went on to become a backup singer for Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. She won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role in a Washington, D.C., production of the blues musical “Thunder Knocking on the Door.” She also has been featured on Broadway in shows including “The Lion King” and “Caroline or Change.”

Stripling is the artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and a former lead trumpeter for the Count Basie Orchestra. He appeared almost 10 years ago at a BPO Pops concert, and News reviewer Harold McNeil wrote: “The nattily attired Stripling’s channeling of Armstrong didn’t end with his trumpet playing. He has a fine baritone capable of evoking Satchmo’s distinctive growl, as well as capturing the essence of dearly departed greats such as Cab Calloway, Billy Eckstein and Joe Williams.”

This toast to jazz legends takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Kleinhans Music Hall. Tickets are $34.50-$85.50. Call 885-5000.

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