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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Jun 24, 2010

While the first day of summer may have come on Monday, for me summer doesn’t begin until the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in Saratoga Springs, NY begins. And fans, that is this weekend.


For two days, an extraordinary kaleidoscope of talent from a number of different musical genres will play two stages in the serene grounds of SPAC.  I’ll be there for the whole shebang, starting at noon on Saturday and ending around 8 pm on Sunday. I hope to have some bulletins for you from the festival as the weekend goes on.


Saturday’s Main Stage is a potpourri of experience and youth. Traditional performers like singer Al Jarreau & the George Duke Trio, bluesman Taj Mahal, and the venerable pianist Ahmad Jamal share the stage with Gerald Albright & Kirk Whalum’s tribute to Stax Records, Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia and New Orleans clarinetist Evan Christopher. Throw in second stage sets by talent such as Mario Abney, Alyssa Graham, and Tomasz Stanko and you’ve got quite a day. That says nothing about the great southern-style food, the juried arts and crafts tent and the jazz bar.


Sunday begins with Rachel Z (keyboard player for Wayne Shorter) and Omar Hakim (drummer for Weather Report) and their “Trio of Oz” and ends with Gladys Knight, after sets from Ramsey Lewis, Ann Hampton Callaway, Stefon Harris & Blackout, and Buena Vista Social Club member Juan De Marcos. Second stage best bets include Kendrick Scott, Linda Oh and Hailey Niswange.


Podcast 185 is my annual preview of the festival, giving you some artist you may know, and others you’ll want to know soon. Click here to listen to:


Al Jarreau – “Teach Me Tonight” from Love Songs. Jarreau will appear with the George Duke Trio, a rare chance to hear the keyboard player in an acoustic setting. A great way to close Saturday night.


Alyssa Graham – “Pictures of You” from Echo. The Cure’s pop hit takes a different turn when covered by this up and coming young singer. Here she is backed by pianist Jon Cowherd (who also produced the CD), guitarist Romeo Lubamba, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Obed Calvaire.


Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia – “Cinema Paradiso” from Live in Milan. A mellow moment from the fusion master.


Rachel Z – “Heart Shaped Box” from First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. She’ll be part of the Trio of Oz opening Sunday’s main show, performing much in this fashion, as the soon to be released Trio of Oz CD is heavy on alt-rock reimaginings.


Ramsey Lewis – “The Way She Smiles” from Songs From The Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey. It’s been more than twenty years since Ramsey and his triowere in Saratoga. This is a good time to catch him, as he’s riding the wave of good reviews from this CD.


Gladys Knight – “Stormy Weather” from Before Me. The “Empress of Soul” is the last act of the festival, and should please fans with renditions of her Motown and Seventies Soul classics, as well as tunes from this album of standards. A salute to the late Lena Horne would be most appropriate.