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Jazz OnStage: Dual female sax players a Wonder for Gene Perla

Star Wonder is a new jazz group with some musicians who may familiar to Miller Symphony Hall jazz series audiences.

As with other ensembles organized by bassist Gene Perla, it features younger players who are pushing the music forward while respecting the jazz tradition.

Star Wonder in concert, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19, “Jazz OnStage” series, main stage, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown.

The groups will be joined by vocalist Viktorija Gecyte, who plans to sing three songs.

The group’s name was inspired by its unusual combination of two women, Roxy Coss and Nicole Glover, playing tenor saxophone.

“They are a new version of Al and Zoot,” says Perla in a Zoom conference call.

Al Cohn and Zoot Sims were two legendary tenors who often performed together.

“I used to play with those guys,” Perla says.

Perla’s lengthy career includes stints with Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Sonny Rollins, Woody Herman and Sarah Vaughan.

“When the idea came for Nichole and Roxy to be the front end of the band ... I thought it was wonderful. The word ‘wonder’ came into my mind. I’m hopeful that maybe this thing will eventually morph into a band that will become stars.”

Glover has appeared with Perla and vocalist Viktorija Gecyte at Miller Symphony Hall.

Perla recalls first hearing her. “Our drummer said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to know about this girl. Man, she really can play. Let me send you this tape.’”

The tape also featured pianist Oscar Williams II, who is a member Star Wonder.

“They were playing [John Coltrane’s] ‘Giant Steps’ and Nichole was burning on top of it. Oscar was playing the keyboard bass and he was playing the hell out of it.” Williams was so good on the bass parts, says Perla.

“I said, ‘We should get together.’

“We had a rehearsal at my house and then we went on from there,” Perla says.

Williams appeared with Perla in the 3Trios concert in November 2020 at Miller Symphony Hall. Star Wonder will feature D. Treut on drums.

“Nichole is able to fit whatever style we do,” says Perla. “Most players just go after one thing and stick to it. She is very well-educated and she has done her homework, not only in practicing her instrument but about the history. I can talk to her about anything. She knows everything about what’s going on.”

Concerning Williams, “We made this record with Nichole and a trumpet player. When I played back the recording, I thought, ‘This guy can really orchestrate around a piano and fill it up.’ I call him a seasoned orchestrator,” Perla says.

The Miller Symphony Hall concert is anticipated to be a mixture of standards and originals. The group does not attempt to have a specific style.

“Whatever the sound is, that’s what it is. We just let it happen. The only plan is that we are going to make sound,” says Perla.

It’s Star Wonder’s first post-COVID concert after debuting at the end of 2019.

Perla says that after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown, “Things are opening up but it is not back to normal.”

Adds Glover, “Not all clubs are open. It depends on the club.”

Perla and Glover teach at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, The New School, New York City.

Glover says things are still a challenge for education after the pandemic.

“It’s really hard right now. Resources have taken a hit. You have to work harder to access those resources.

“For students, it’s harder to be connected to the source of the music these days. You want them to be mentored by people, but mentors are not available.”

The shortage of concert work is hurting students as well as musicians.

“People have less gigs than before. Recalling Perla’s legacy, Glover says, “Gene worked all the time.”

“Eight days a week,” Perla adds.

Says Glover, “Performing experiences are fewer and farther between, and there is no relationship to playing on the bandstand.”

Tickets: www.allentownsymphony.org; 610-432-6715