SPAC kicks off “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions” today

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Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Absolutely Live Entertainment, in partnership with Caffè Lena announce “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions,” presented in lieu of the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, previously cancelled by SPAC due to health and safety concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.Headlined by national artists JON BATISTE, BÉLA FLECK and ABIGAIL WASHBURN, and PEDRITO MARTINEZ, Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions will also feature acclaimed local musicians CHUCK LAMB & JORGE GOMEZGARLAND NELSON’s “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” and the SKIDMORE JAZZ INSTITUTE ALUMNI TRIO. Slated for June 26, 27 and 28 at 8 p.m., the series of streamed concerts will feature produced videos from the national artists alongside performances from Lena’s stage from beloved local ensembles. The festival will be free to experience and hosted through Caffè Lena’s “Stay Home Sessions” YouTube platform

Photo by Shawn LaChapelle

“Freihofer’s has been a generous and steadfast supporter of Jazz Fest for the last 23 years. When presented with the possibility of creating a Virtual Jazz Fest, they didn’t miss a beat – pledging to support our efforts to bring great musicians and audience together despite the challenges of COVID-19.  Being able to create connection for jazz lovers – and support both national and local musicians, the latter performing from Caffe Lena — is a privilege,” says Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Kicking-off the virtual festival on Friday, June 26 will be a Cuban-themed evening featuring Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz  Festival favorite and Grammy®-nominated, Havana-born music sensation Pedrito Martinez. Martinez will be preceded by Chuck Lamb and Jorge Gomez performing original music exclusive to the event. On Saturday, June 27, fifteen-time Grammy®-winning banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck together with his wife — singer, songwriter and banjo player, Abigail Washburn — will headline the jazz and folk inspired event, preceded by the Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio, co-presented by the Skidmore Jazz Institute. Closing out the three-day festival on Sunday, June 28 will be globally celebrated musician, bandleader and television personality, Jon Batiste. Garland Nelson’s energetic “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” open with a program celebrating the soulful sounds of Detroit.

Photo by Shawn LaChapelle

“Caffè Lena and SPAC have gotten very creative to keep delivering music during the shutdown. Fortunately for musicians and fans, we’re thinking outside the box to save Jazz Fest this year. I’ve never seen so much cooperation among all players in the music industry. It’s clear that, underlying all the business and negotiating, most of the industry is fueled by a genuine belief in the positive power of music. It keeps us inspired and determined to get through this crisis together,” says Sarah Craig, Executive Director of Caffè Lena.

“Our ‘stay at home sessions’ is a three-night love letter to our longtime festival devotees and a snapshot of the diversity of artistry and music typically heard at the festival. Making this free to the public yet a fundraiser for the Equal Justice Initiative and the crucial work they are doing to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenge racial and economic injustice, and to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society is an important part of this presentation that we hope people will support,” says Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment.

Photo by Shawn LaChapelle

Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions was created as a way to bring the community and Jazz Fest fans together in a celebration of great jazz music following the cancellation of the in-person Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, scheduled for the same weekend. To commemorate the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, SPAC has also created a t-shirt featuring original artwork by Skidmore College student Isa Hage. All proceeds will support the Equal Justice Initiative. Visit SPAC.org for more details. 

For safety and social distancing purposes, Caffè Lena will remain closed to everyone except essential personnel and musicians. Content will be pre-recorded adhering to CDC guidelines.

“FREIHOFER’S JAZZ FEST STAY HOME SESSIONS” LINE-UP:

FRIDAY, JUNE 26 @ 8PM

Pedrito Martinez

Four-time Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival headliner, and Grammy®-nominated, Havana-born music sensation, Pedrito Martinez, will share his irresistible and seductive Afro-Cuban grooves to kick-off the festival. Widely regarded as the one of the world’s leading percussionists, he has recorded or performed with Eric Clapton, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Chucho Valdez, and Sting.

Chuck Lamb & Jorge Gomez

Chuck Lamb and Jorge Gomez will come together to share their original “Cuban meets Jazz Fusion” music, which they will feature on their new recording project, currently underway. The performance will include pre-recorded percussion and horn tracks from this project — some with members of Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre.

Chuck Lamb, as a pianist and composer, has been with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet for 14 years and has performed with the Quartet as well as with his own groups at numerous renowned venues around the world. Lamb was scheduled to perform at the festival with The Brubeck Brothers in celebration of Dave Brubeck’s Centennial.

Jorge Gomez is the bandleader and keyboard/pianist of three-time Grammy®-nominated Afro-Caribbean music group Tiempo Libre, which was slated to have its festival debut this June.

SATURDAY, JUNE 27 @ 8PM

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Known to Saratoga audiences for his four festival appearances, fifteen-time Grammy® Award-winning banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck,has been nominated in more categories than any other artist in Grammy history, and remains a powerfully creative force globally in bluegrass, jazz, classical pop, rock and world beat. Fleck as a duo with his wife — singer, songwriter and banjo player, Abigail Washburn — has recorded two albums including a self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy® for Best Folk Album and Echo in the Valley, which DOWNBEATpraised as “something close to miraculous.”

Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio

The Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio is comprised of Brian Halliday (piano, recent graduate of the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase College), Samuel Smith (bass, Berklee College graduate, currently pursuing his Masters degree at Bard College), and Quinton Cain (drums, pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at Manhattan School of Music). Members of the trio proudly hail from New York State and have attended the Skidmore Jazz Institute summer program as part of their musical training. The Skidmore Jazz Institute has been called the “non-pareil destination for attentive and engaged instruction in the improviser’s art” by DOWNBEAT. The Institute, now in its 33rd year, has successfully helped to launch the music careers of past festival headliners Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Jon Batiste, among others.

SUNDAY, JUNE 28 @ 8PM

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste, who has performed at the festival three times and most recently in 2018, is a globally celebrated musician, educator, bandleader and television personality, recognized for his originality, jaw-dropping talent and dapper sense of style. Jon transitions from commanding the piano with virtuosic skill, to soulfully crooning, to wailing on the “harmonaboard” (a kind of harmonica and keyboard), to curating unique “social music” experiences all over the world. The Forbes “30 under 30” honoree balances a demanding performance schedule with his role as bandleader for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Artistic Director At Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, as well as public speaking engagements, master classes and occasional acting gigs and his signature impromptu ‘love riot’ street parade.

Garland Nelson’s “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble”

Led by “soulist” and bandleader Garland Nelson, who was originally scheduled to make his festival debut with his Joyful Noise gospel program, “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” will bring an ensemble of fronting singers from top capital region bands. “Reflection” pays tribute to the golden age of Soul Music from Motown, Staxx Records, Chess Records, and Philadelphia International. 

Generous support for “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest at Home Sessions” has been provided by Freihofer’s, National Grid, Times Union, and Tom and Anne Gaughan. For more information about the festival, visit SPAC.org.

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