Local musicians will team up to honor jazz legends

Molly Countermine will perform during Saturday’s “At Last: An Evening with Etta & Ella” concert at The State Theatre.
Molly Countermine will perform during Saturday’s “At Last: An Evening with Etta & Ella” concert at The State Theatre. Photo provided

Area musicians will honor legendary jazz vocalists Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald with “At Last: An Evening with Etta & Ella,” at The State Theatre on Saturday.

Rick Hirsch, musical director and co-producer of this year’s concert, will lead the Zeropoint Big Band as it accompanies Jackie Brown, Molly Countermine, Tigi Habtemariam, Melanie Morrison, Tyne Palazzi and Elizabeth Webb, as they take turns singing the best of James and Fitzgerald.

Countermine, who has been a staple in the State College music scene for almost 20 years, said she has always loved jazz, but never really brought a whole lot of it into her repertoire.

“Some of the famous ‘torch’ songs, (“At Last,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Dream a Little Dream,”) are staples when I sing at weddings or more mellow gigs, but I’m certainly not an experienced or accomplished jazz vocalist,” she said. “I look at these gigs as an opportunity to stretch and grow musically.”

Brown is best known as the dynamic frontwoman of the local Gill Street Band. She is a Philadelphia native who started her music career as a drummer, but then focused more on singing and funk and soul music. She also sings classic rock with the Skoal Brothers.

“The way my style fits into the music of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald is that my style is very soulful, very animated and full of passion,” Brown said. “I am great at ad-libing as well — something Ella and Etta are known for.”

Webb, a jazz musician and private voice and piano teacher based in Bellefonte, has been singing professionally for over 10 years. She has performed in Austria, Ireland, England, Wales and Italy, and is a frequent performer at The State Theatre, appearing in the Frank Sinatra centennial, the Last Cruise and as part of the Jazz in the Attic series.

Webb’s style of singing has been greatly influenced by Fitzgerald, but even more so by James.

“When I was little I used to listen to this one jazz CD over and over — it was Ella Fitzgerald singing with a big band,” she said. “It’s one of the first moments I remember realizing I wanted to sing jazz when I grew up.”

Certain stylistic phrases that Webb will be singing in each song have been greatly influenced by listening to them and hearing their unique artistry.

“Ella Fitzgerald taught me how to swing,” she said. “She was singing ‘Foggy Day,’ and I remember thinking I had never heard a singer sound so good. I was maybe 6 or 7 at the time.”

Countermine will perform Fitzgerald’s “Dream a Little Dream” and James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” while Brown will sing Fitzgerald’s “Our Love is Here to Stay” and James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” Webb will perform interpretations of the pop standards “Blues in the Night,” “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Night and Day.”

The Zeropoint Big Band will back them all up.

“I can say without a doubt that this show will be extra-special and well received,” Countermine said. “The Big Band is super tight, Rick’s arrangements are so tasty and the lineup of vocalists is stellar.”

Webb thinks this will be a memorable concert, as the tunes are very recognizable, ones that music lovers of all ages will enjoy.

“These singers teamed up with the Zeropoint Band will definitely make this an incredible concert,” she said. “And if you are a jazz lover, in my opinion, this is a must-see concert.”


  • What: “At Last: An Evening with Etta & Ella”
  • When: 7 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College.
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre .org