Jun 23, 2015
If it’s the start of summer, then it must be time for the Summer Jazz Festival season to begin in earnest, and for me that means the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center June 27-28. This year’s festival keeps with prior year’s thematic goals of presenting both marquee names and the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow, jazz next to classic R&B and blues.
“The Hang,” and the Festival has come to be called, is in a wonderful setting. A USA Today and 10 Best readers’ poll has given Saratoga Performing Arts Center the distinction of being named Best Outdoor Music Venue in the country. Add to the fine acoustics of the main stage the intimacy of the Gazebo Stage plus world class food and arts & crafts, and you have got all the elements for a great weekend.
Saturday has what I see as the stronger of the two days. The Main Stage will be graced by Theo Croker, Monty Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express, Pedrito Martinez, the Christian McBride Big Band, the Al DiMeola Electric Band, Cassandra Wilson, and Frankie Beverly & Maze. The Gazebo has an ace lineup including Croker; Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein, and Joe Farnsworth; Duchess featuring Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, and Melissa Stylianou; Steve Wilson and Wilsonian’s Grain featuring Orrin Evans, Ugonna Okegwo, and Bill Stewart; and the Omer Avital Quartet.
On Sunday they do it all over again, with a highly diverse Main Stage lineup including Etienne Charles; Django Festival All-Stars including Samsom Schmitt, Pierre Blanchard, and Ludovic Beier ; Super group the Heads of State featuring Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Buster Williams, and Al Foster; bluesmeisters Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters; Snarky Puppy, and a one-two closing punch of the neo-soul of Erykah Badu and the Latin fire of Sheila E. The Gazebo Stage will host Charles; the Yosvary Terry Quartet featuring Osmany Paredes, Yunior Terry, and Obed Calvaire ; KellyLee Evans; the Benny Green Trio with David Wong and Rodney Green; and Sonny Knight & the Lakers.
Podcast 485 features promoter Danny Melnick taking us through the various artists, and giving you the background you need to more completely enjoy the festival. Musical selections from artists performing at the festival include:
Duchess – “There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth The Salt Of My Tears” from Duchess.
Money Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express – “Regulator (Reggae-Later)” from Harlem-Kingston Express Volume 2: The River Rolls On.
Al DiMeola – Title Track from Elysium.
Cassandra Wilson – “Good Morning Heartache” from Coming Forth By Da
The Heads of State – “Soulstice” from Searching for Peace.
Snarky Puppy with The Metropole Orchestra – “Flight” from Sylva