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 Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Moore By Four: Holiday Special at the Dakota, December 26th PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Sunday, 23 December 2012

Moore by Four

Over the past 25 years, Moore By Four has been one of the most popular vocal ensembles in the Twin Cities. This jazzy vocal quartet has performed less often in recent years as its members have forged solo careers; Yolande Bruce, Ginger Commodore, Connie Evingson and Dennis Spears are often on the calendars of local clubs and theaters fronting their own bands, while leader/pianist Sanford Moore has kept busy with the University of Minnesota Gospel Choir and directing productions for Penumbra Theater. A special post-holiday gift will be presented at the Dakota on December 26 when Moore by Four reunites for a too-rare evening of tight harmonies and classy arrangements of seasonal classics and more.


Moore by Four 1986ŠJim Arndt
Moore by Four has been entertaining audiences from the Twin Cities to Europe to Japan since their first performances at Ruby’s Cabaret in 1986. With their trademark precision and polish, pulsating rhythms and inventive arrangements, they have often been compared to the Manhattan Transfer, with heavy doses of gospel, jazz and pop tossed into the mix. Their initial focus on Swing classics has expanded over the years to include contemporary covers, Broadway, and original compositions.


In addition to their popular holiday shows, they have shared the stage with Harry Connick, Jr. and the late Joe Williams, Carmen MacRae, Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie. Their special appearances have included performances for the US Olympic Committee, Super Bowl, Minnesota Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves, as well as President and Mrs. Clinton, Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev, Vaclav Havel and the King and Queen of Sweden. Their acclaimed “Cotton Club Revue” was revived at the Lab Theater in 2009. A few weeks ago, Moore by Four, with area vocalist/actress Greta Oglesby, presented "One Holiday Wish," a fundraiser for Penumbra Theater.


Sanford MooreŠAndrea Canter
Leader Sanford Moore serves as producer, arranger, composer and pianist. Director of the University Gospel Choir, Moore has maintained a busy schedule in recent years with area theatrical productions, including Penumbra Theatre's productions of Black Nativity and Dinah Was, Mixed Blood Theatre's production of Two Queens One Castle and Black Belts I, II and III; Hey City Theatre's production of Smokey Joe's Café; the Guthrie Theater's productions of Dream on Monkey Mountain (directed by Bill T. Jones), Triumph of Love, As You Like It, and Crowns; musical direction of Fever, and a tribute to Peggy Lee featuring MB4 vocalist, Connie Evingson. He is also the creator, together with director Richard T. Thompson and choreographer Garry Q. Lewis, of an original musical review trilogy (Always and Forever, 2-Gether, and Living Beauty) presented at Illusion Theater. Moore has also served as producer, arranger and pianist on various recording projects including Swing Fever, Deck The Halls, I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart: A Tribute to Duke Ellington, I Have Dreamed, Fever, Some Cats Know, and his first solo recording, My First Love: A Collection of Hymns, Gospels and Spirituals. He was the featured “Legend” in the Capri Theater’s Legends series in 2009. In his spare time, he also serves as minister of music for the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.


Yonlande BruceŠAndrea Canter
Yolande Bruce has been a featured vocalist at many productions both locally and abroad. A Minnesota Music Awards nominee for Best Female Jazz Artist in 1993, she has been active in local theater, including Penumbra’s productions of Spunk and T.O.B.A.; Illusion Theater’s productions of  2-Gether, Living Beauty, and  For Our Daughters; Big River at Mankato State University; the Guthrie Theater’s Dream on Monkey Mountain; Sounds of Rondo at the Minnesota History Theater; and was a featured vocalist in the Capri Theater’s tribute to Sanford Moore. She’s been on the stage of local venues such as the Dakota, Sophia’s and Rossi’s Blue Star Room, and was recently the guest artist for the PipJazz Sundays concert series at Landmark Center.


Ginger CommodoreŠAndrea Canter
Displaying an elastic voice that seems to fit the blues as well as the ballad or pop cover, Ginger Commodore began her career as a long-time member of the Grammy Award-winning Sounds of Blackness. She’s an original member of Women Who Cook, and has performed with Yanni, The Minnesota Opera Company, the Twin City Gospel Ensemble, the J.D. Steele Singers, and with local theater productions, including Selma and Black Nativity (Penumbra Theater), Black Belts (Mixed Blood Theater), Smokey Joe’s Café (Hey City Theater), and most recently, Hairspray (Chanhassen Dinner Theater). She has also recently toured internationally with the Chiffons. As part of the Witness Music Series under the direction of Phillip Brunelle, she brings her music into the schools, where she has performed with keyboard virtuoso Patrice Rushen. When not otherwise engaged, Ginger performs with her own quartet (GCQ) and with husband Bobby’s BWC. With her band, Ginger released Live! Hot Summer Jazz in 2007, a set that includes Ginger’s most requested songs.


Connie EvingsonŠAndrea Canter
Nominated as Jazz Vocalist of the Year in 2005 by Jazz Week, Connie Evingson’s distinctive voice and creative interpretation know no boundaries, covering such diverse material as Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and the Beatles. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Speech/Communications, she sang around town in clubs and did a brief stint with the Minnesota Vocal Jazz Ensemble before joining Moore By Four. Connie’s solo career has taken her around the world, into the radio studio for commercials and as cohost of “Singers and Standards” with Arne Fogel on KBEM, to the 1998 Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition where she was among the top 15 contestants, and into the recording studio for 8 chart-topping releases on Minnehaha Music. In addition to two popular albums of gypsy swing, her most recent projects have included the tunes of Dave Frishberg (Little Did I Dream) and Norman Gimbel (Sweet Happy Life). Connie is a frequent performer at the Dakota, and has appeared coast to coast (at Jazz Alley in Seattle and Blues Alley in Washington, DC). Over the past three seasons, Connie has starred in the “Jazz at the Jungle” series at the Jungle Theater, devoting shows to the songs of Peggy Lee, Lennon & McCartney, and Norman Gimbel. She also heads the Jazz in the Lounge Series at the Minneapolis Woman’s Club.


Dennis SpearsŠAndrea Canter
The male voice of Moore By Four, Dennis Spears’ individual career is equally spectacular, including his solo Nat King Cole show (performed at Kennedy Center in 2010) and leading roles in such theater productions as Smokey Joe’s Café, Two Queens, One Castle, Heart of the Man and Penumbra products Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Blue. He also serves as Artistic Director for the Capri Theater, where he has headed a number of productions in the acclaimed Legends series. Noted Marissa Dodge in the Criterion Jazz Review, “Dennis Spears’ voice isn’t just an instrument, it’s a continent: He sings of the rich earth of the south where the roots of the Blues and Jazz are deeply planted, of the lucid north where freedom of expression thrives. He deftly touches on the sharp sophistication of the east coast and the eclectic energy of the west, striking a common chord among us with every turn of phrase.” Dennis most recently released Why Try to Change Me Now?, a tribute to Nat King Cole.

Reservations are recommended for this special night at the Dakota (7 pm) with Minnesota’s premiere jazz vocal ensemble, Moore by Four.


The Dakota is located at 1010 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis; tickets ($25) at 612-332-5299;

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