Jun 7, 2011
Anyone reading this blog for any length of time knows that I am an unabashed fan of the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival at. Held the last weekend in June every year, it’s the best weekend of music you’ll have all summer, dollar-for-dollar and note-for note.
This year’s event, held again at the wonderful Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), marks its 34th year as one of the most celebrated and longest-running jazz events in the world. On Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26, SPAC will host a dynamic lineup of more that 20 acclaimed artists and ensembles on two stages--the Amphitheatre (Main) and Gazebo. In addition, the festival will feature a fine arts and crafts fair, CD signings by artists, a full-service bar in the Hall of Springs, southern style barbeque and other food vendors, and a children's craft area.
The performers? Well’s here’s just a taste of the Main Stage action: Jack DeJohnette with Rudresh Mahanthappa; Dee Dee Bridgewater; the Bad Plus; Tia Fuller; “A Night in Treme” featuring Donald Harrison, Jr. and special guests including Cyril Neville; and “Sing the Truth!” with Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright (pictured above) celebrating the legacies of Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln & Odetta. Whew!
I got to learn more about this year’s festival from Danny Melnick , the President of Absolutely Live Entertainment, which co-produces the Festival with SPAC. It takes Danny all year to pick the artists to present, and his taste is usually impeccable. Click here to listen to Podcast 218, a conversation with Danny, as you learn why Saratoga is “all about the hang”, and listen to music from scheduled performers, including:
The Bad Plus – “Heart of Glass” from These are the Vistas - Originally performing on the Gazebo Stage, “the loudest piano trio in the world”, the Bad Plus, is back to perform on the Main Stage this year. They mix originals with wonderfully reimagined versions of rock tunes by bands like Radiohead, Black Sabbath, and Blondie, the latter of whom who put this tune at the top of the pop charts in 1978. The Bad Plus is Reid Anderson on bass, Dave King on drums, and fellow blogger Ethan Iverson on piano.
Marcus Strickland – “Sesame Street” from Twi-Life. I did a Podcast interview with Marcus in 2009 (click here if you missed it), and his reputation as a post-Coltrane saxophonist has only grown since then. Here he leads a quartet from 2006, with bassist Vicente Archer, pianist Robert Glasper and drummer (and brother) E.J. Strickland.
Jack DeJohnette – “Untitled” from an unreleased recording May 19, 2011. I converted a youtube video to MP3 for this podcast, so you can hear the current lineup of Jack DeJohnette on drums, Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto sax. George Colligan on keyboards, Dave Fiuczynski on guitar and Jerome Harris on bass. Looks like a winner to me.
Newport All-Stars – “Rosetta“ from Newport Jazz Festival All-Stars. Longtime jazz promoter George Wein is also a talented jazz pianist, and Melnick was pleased to book his old mentor for the Festival this year. This recording from 1984 does not feature his current band, but is a good indication of the sound. This version of the band features Wein on piano.Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, Oliver Jackson on drums, Slam Stewart on bass, Norris Turney on alto sax and clarinet, and Warren Vache on coronet.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Title track from I Learned the Hard Way. Ms. Jones and her crackerjack soul band could headline many festivals, but here they are a mid-Sunday spectacular. Their brand of soul recalls the golden days of Stax/Volt, and is sure to bring the crowd to their feet. And yes, that was the Dap-Tones backing up Amy Winehouse on her break-through album.
Donald Harrison, Jr. – “Indian Red“ from Treme: Music From the HBO Original Series, Season 1. The album received two Grammy nominations, and Harrison’s version of “Indian Red” was one of the highlights. A son of New Orleans, and veteran of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Harrison will be celebrating his 51st birthday the weekend of the festival, so he should be primed for a party. This song is a Mardi Gras Indian number that usually opens and closes their gatherings (Click here for more information).