Jun 22, 2012
My musical summer can begin on June 30th, with the 35th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival takes place at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in New York. If New Orleans is “The Big Easy”, then this festival should be known as “The Big Hang”, with two days of wonderful vibes, two stages of world-class music, food, crafts and general fun.
And who will be featured on the Main Stage this year? I’m glad you asked.
Saturday kicks off with Mario Abney & the Abney Effect, followed by Christian McBride & Inside Straight. Michel Camilo’s "Mano a Mano" with Giovanni Hidalgo and Charles Flores begins around 2:40, followed by the always incredible Mingus Big Band. The two biggest names follow – Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding’s "Radio Music Society" and trumpet star Chris Botti. The evening ends with a dose of old school funk, courtesy of Maceo Parker.
They do it all again on Sunday, with the exciting Trio of Oz featuring Omar Hakim and Rachel Z getting things going at noon, followed by fusion veterans The Yellowjackets and the Hiromi Trio Project. A late afternoon treat will be provided by Arturo O'Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, and then Diana Krall and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue bring it all home.
And then we rest. Or at least my wife Nancy and I will, touring downtown Saratoga Springs as we start our week long vacation.
Danny Melnick is responsible for booking the talent, and we spoke again (listen to podcast 218 to hear last year’s preview) to give everyone a backstage view of what goes into putting on such a wonderful event. Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical interludes by festival Main Stage performers like:
Esperanza Spalding – “Cinnamon Tree” from Radio Music Society. The winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Ms. Spalding has recorded arguably her best album yet, composed primarily of original tunes and featuring the sparkling play of her regular band (featuring pianist Leo Genovese and drummer Terry Lynne Carrington), backing guests like Joe Lovano (sax), percussionists Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart; guitar heroes Jef Lee Johnson and Lionel Loueke; an array of master vocalists including Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway, Gretchen Parlato, Leni Stern and Becca Stevens; hip-hop giant Q-Tip (who performs on and co-produced two tracks); and two Portland-based musicians, Janice Scroggins and Dr. Thara Memory, who provided essential mentorship in Spalding’s youth.
Diana Krall – “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart“ from Quiet Nights. The only jazz singer to have eight albums debuting at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, Ms. Krall is in the midst of a large-scale world tour. To honor the memory of the late Robin Gibb, here’s her version of the Bee Gees classic tune.
Michel Camilo – “Rice and Beans” from Mano a Mano. Camilo will be part of a sensational trio, featuring long-time bassist Charles Flores and percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. This should be one that gets the crowd out of their seats early in the festival.
Hiromi Trio Project – “Now or Never“ from Voice. Recorded with bass legend Anthony Jackson (Headhunters) and rock-jazz fusion drummer Simon Phillips, this was an album that was rocking as much as it was swinging.
Mingus Big Band – “Moanin’” from Mingus Big Band Live at the Jazz Standard. A Grammy winning CD, this shows the great power of the world’s greatest interpreter of the works of Charles Mingus. Solos here are by Lauren Sevian and David Kikoski.
Jeremy Pelt – “David and Goliath” from The Talented Mr. Pelt. One of ten acts returning to celebrate the virtuosity of the Gazebo Stage, Pelt leads a quintet that is hardly a group of beginners. Together for five years, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Dwayne Burno, trumpeter Pelt and drummer Gerald Cleaver. This track, from last year’s critically acclaimed CD, ended the recording with a blast.