Story by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
This year’s festival headliners include funk favorites Earth, Wind & Fire and Trombone Shorty, as well as jazz masters Terence Blanchard and Dave Holland Prism, among others. Once again, the music will be held on two stages – the 5000-seat amphitheater stage and the more intimate and casual Gazebo Stage – over the course of two days and nights.
“Over the last 37 years, the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival has established its place as one of the premier summer music festivals in America,” said Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director. “In 2014, this event will mark a defining moment when we welcome Earth, Wind & Fire, one of the greatest bands of all time.”
While world-class jazz is the centerpiece of the weekend, fans can also enjoy a host of amenities including 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. In addition, festival-goers are welcome to bring in their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas.
Tickets for the fest will be available online beginning on Tuesday, February 25 for SPAC’s highest level members and on Tuesday, March 18 for the general public.
Here’s the line-up of performers for the 2014 Friehofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival:
SATURDAY, JUNE 28
ROBIN McKELLE & THE FLYTONES, 12noon: The Rochester-based singer blends jazz, R&B, pop, soul and blues, on her recent album Soul Flower and the upcoming Heart of Memphis. For her Jazz Fest debut, she’ll do double duty, playing on both the amphitheater and gazebo stages.
RONNIE EARL & THE BROADCASTERS, 1:20pm: Appearing at the festival only once in 1997, the blues guitar great Ronnie Earl and his band the Broadcasters will make their long-awaited return this summer in support of their recent live album, Just for Today.
JON BATISTE & STAY HUMAN, 2:45pm: Not yet 30 years old, the Louisiana keyboardist is one of the jazz world’s most exciting young talents, acclaimed for his modern take on the American songbook, through the channels of a virtuosic pedigree in jazz and classical music. He has appeared in films (Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer) and television (HBO’s “Treme”), and will perform at the fest in support of his latest album, 2013’s Social Music.
MIKE STERN/BILL EVANS BAND featuring STEVE SMITH & TOM KENNEDY, 4:15pm: It’s the U.S. debut of a new “super band,” led by virtuoso guitarist Mike Stern and renowned saxophonist Bill Evans (both of whom worked with Miles Davis in the ’80s). The explosive fusion band is powered by drummer Steve Smith (formerly of Journey) and bassist Tom Kennedy.
TERENCE BLANCHARD, 5:40pm: The multi-talented trumpeter, bandleader, film-score and soundtrack composer returns to the Jazz Fest for his fourth appearance as a leader and fifth overall, having made his fest debut with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers back in 1985. Blanchard and his band perform in support of his most recent album, Magnetic, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
DR. LONNIE SMITH OCTET, 7:15pm: The veteran Hammond B-3 organ master will make his festival debut, performing in support of his latest album, In the Beginning Vols. 1 & 2, a collection of Smith’s original compositions from early in his career (most of which were initially documented on his classic mid-to-late-’60s Columbia and Blue Note albums).
EARTH, WIND & FIRE, 9:15pm: One of the most popular funk and R&B bands of all-time – selling over 90 million albums over the course of their 44-year career – EW&F have performed at SPAC in the past, but this will be their Jazz Fest debut. They’ll appear in support of their new album, Now, Then & Forever.
MARC CARY FOCUS TRIO featuring RASHAAN CARTER & SAMEER GUPTA, 12:15pm: With credits ranging from Abbey Lincoln and Dizzy Gillespie to Erykah Badu and Q-Tip, multi–dimensional keyboardist Marc Cary makes his Jazz Fest debut as a leader with his Focus Trio (featuring bassist Rashaan Carter and percussionist Sameer Gupta), which fuses East Asian, Indian, African and Native American influences within the African-American blues and jazz traditions.
LEW TABACKIN TRIO, 1:40pm: A favorite at the Saratoga Jazz Festival since debuting in 1980 with the award-winning Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band (a group that he formed with Akiyoshi, his wife), this year marks acclaimed flutist and tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin’s ninth overall festival appearance and second as a bandleader. His accolades and awards include a 2012 nomination for the JJA Jazz Awards; winning the Downbeat 2010 Critics’ Poll in the Flute category, and winning his fourth consecutive Swing Journal Reader’s Poll.
MARY HALVORSON TRIO with JOHN HEBERT & CHES SMITH, 3:10pm: Guitarist-composer Mary Halvorson has been called “NYC’s least-predictable improviser” (City Arts), “the most forward-thinking guitarist working right now” (NPR) and “one of today’s most formidable bandleaders” (The Village Voice). Halvorson will make her festival debut with her trio featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith.
ROBIN McKELLE & THE FLYTONES, 4:40pm: (see info above)
JAIMEO BROWN with J.D. ALLEN & CHRIS SHOLAR, 6:05pm: Renowned drummer-composer Jaimeo Brown’s haunting debut as a leader, Transcendence (Motéma Music, 2013), brilliantly taps the root soul connections between African-American spirituals, transcendental East Indian music, Coltrane-esque improvisation and 21st century electronic music. He’ll be joined by guitarist-producer Chris Sholar (Kanye West, Jay Z) and saxophonist J.D. Allen for his Jazz Fest debut.
SUNDAY, JUNE 29
QUINN SULLIVAN, 12:30pm: Blues guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan makes his festival debut as a leader, after a rousing surprise guest appearance with legendary bluesman Buddy Guy last year. Not bad for a youngster who won’t celebrate his 15th birthday until next month. The blues prodigy has appeared on such national television shows as “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Ellen,” “Oprah,” “The Today Show” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL: NOW 60 BAND featuring ANAT COHEN, KARRIN ALLYSON, RANDY BRECKER, MARK WHITFIELD, PETER MARTIN, LARRY GRENADIER & CLARENCE PENN, 1:50pm: Led by clarinetist Anat Cohen, the Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 Band celebrates both the great history of the Newport Jazz Festival® and its current role as one of the most active presenters of contemporary jazz artists in the world. This celebration holds special meaning to the Saratoga Jazz Festival, as the project is presented to honor George Wein (the legendary impresario who founded both the Newport and Saratoga Jazz Festivals).
DAVE HOLLAND PRISM with KEVIN EUBANKS, CRAIG TABORN & ERIC HARLAND, 3:20pm: Bassist, composer and bandleader Dave Holland has a rich history with the festival. He appeared with his own band in 2002, performed with Jack DeJohnette’s Parallel Realities tour in 1990, and in a quartet format with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Brian Blade in 2004. He returns to the festival with his new band, Prism – an electrifying project that is equally groove-oriented as it is avant-garde.
PATTI AUSTIN, 5pm: The Grammy Award-winning singer crosses all musical genres, has made 17 solo albums, and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on the Grammys and the Oscars. Her 2007 album, Avant-Gershwin (Rendezvous), was awarded a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance.
EDDIE PALMIERI SALSA ORCHESTRA, 6:45pm: A nine-time Grammy Award-winner and 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master (the highest honor bestowed by the United States), pianist and bandleader, Eddie Palmieri returns to the festival for the first time since 1990. He is simply one of the finest Latin jazz pianists of the past 50 years.
TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE, 8:30pm: Called the “Jimi Hendrix of the trombone” in a recent profile by Rhythms magazine, trombone & trumpet phenomenon Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews returns for his second festival appearance (debuting in 2012), with his signature “Supafunkrock” sound – a combination of New Orleans’ funk, rock, R&B and hip-hop. His sold-out concert at The Egg last month was nothing short of dazzling.
TIM BERNE’S SNAKEOIL with OSCAR NOERIEGA, MATT MITCHELL & CHES SMITH, 12:10pm: Saxophonist Tim Berne will make his festival debut, performing with his ensemble, Snakeoil, which The New York Times has described as “an investigative chamber-improv group.” The band has released two critically acclaimed albums on ECM Records, Snakeoil and Shadow Man.
WARREN WOLF & WOLFPACK, 1:30pm: One of the most important young jazz stars today, vibraphonist Warren Wolf makes his festival debut as a leader, following an appearance with his mentor Christian McBride in 2012. Last year, the multi-instrumentalist became a member of the SFJAZZ Collective and released his latest album, Wolfgang.
MELISSA ALDANA CRASH TRIO with PABLO MENARES & FRANCISCO MELA, 2:50pm: Chilean-born Melissa Aldana recently won the 2013 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz saxophone competition – the first female instrumentalist to take first prize in this event since its inception in 1987.
SEAN JONES QUARTET with ORRIN EVANS, LUQUES CURTIS & OBED CALVAIRE, 4:10pm: The trumpeter-composer-bandleader makes his festival debut, performing with pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire. In addition to releasing six albums as a bandleader, Jones is also the former lead trumpeter for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
QUINN SULLIVAN, 5:35pm: (see info above)
ADDITIONAL UPCOMING FESTIVALS FOR 2014:
The Winter Hoot @ the Ashokan Center, Olivebridge, 2/7-9/14
The Flurry Festival @ various locations, Saratoga Springs, 2/14-16/14
MOVE Music Festival @ various locations, Albany, 4/25-27/14
Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain, Hunter, 6/5-8/14