|Earth Wind & Fire / Photo Credit: Randee St. Nicolas|
The 37th annual Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival, one of the most celebrated and longest running jazz events in the world, will be held on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This year's festival headliners include Earth, Wind & Fire, Trombone Shorty, Terence Blanchard, Dave Holland Prism, Patti Austin, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra, Quinn Sullivan, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60, among others. Tickets for the festival will be available online beginning February 25 for Saratoga Performing Arts Center's highest level members and March 18 for the general public.
Located in Saratoga Springs, New York at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the festival was founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein and has hosted a who's who of jazz greats over the years including Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Wayne Shorter and Ray Charles. With an inside seating capacity of 5,200, lawn seating of 20,000, world class jazz talent performing on two stages, and an idyllic state park setting located just three hours driving time from either Boston or New York City, the festival draws thousands of fans from across the Northeast and throughout North America.
"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 J. 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. With more than 90 million albums sold worldwide, this band's appeal is timeless and its spectacular live shows continue to draw sell-out crowds from coast to coast.
"Sharing the bill with Earth, Wind & Fire will be a star-studded lineup including the phenomenal Trombone Shorty who rocked the house during his 2012 festival appearance, Billboard chart-topper Patti Austin who makes her festival debut, rising star Jon Batiste and his Stay Human band, NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra, blues guitar prodigy and Buddy Guy protégé Quinn Sullivan and jazz giant Terence Blanchard, among many others. The Gazebo stage will feature some of the hottest rising stars on the jazz scene including Jaimeo Brown, Robin McKelle and the Flytones and the Sean Jones Quartet," she adds. "Special thanks go out to our title sponsor Freihofer's which helps us present fans with a spectacular event each and every year; the spirit of partnership they bring to this festival is truly one of the reasons for its success."
"The 37th jazz festival at SPAC will be one for the record books. The powerhouse and diverse line-up is certain to thrill our audience," said Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment, which co-produces the festival with SPAC. "I have wanted to book Earth, Wind & Fire for years and we finally have them closing our Saturday program will a full-concert set!"
In addition to festival headliners, Gazebo Stage programming will continue to feature an innovative mix of established and emerging artists in jazz. The lineup includes: Melissa Aldana Crash Trio, Marc Cary Focus Trio, Jaimeo Brown, Mary Halvorson Trio, Sean Jones Quartet, Warren Wolf & Wolfpack, and Tim Berne's Snakeoil, all of whom are making their festival debuts. The stage will also feature returning saxophonist Lew Tabackin with his trio.
While two-days and two-stages of live, 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, all presented by Stella Artois. Guests are welcome to bring in their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas. Parking for the event is free.
"Last year we celebrated Freihofer's 100th anniversary with fireworks," Melnick adds. "Because of Freihofer's continued generous support, this year's festival will have musical fireworks all weekend long."
Stella Artois returns to the festival this year and is the lead sponsor of the lawn experience ("the hang"). The upscale Belgian beer company is no stranger to sponsoring high-profile arts and cultural events; they've been notably involved with the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Singapore Jazz Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival.
"Wrapped around these two glorious days of world-class music is SPAC's postcard-perfect setting in the majestic Saratoga Spa State Park - the perfect place to stretch out, relax and take in the music," reflects White. There is truly no better way to kick-off the summer."
2014 Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival Artists
Earth, Wind & Fire - One of the most popular funk and R&B bands of all-time -- selling over 90 million albums in their 44-year career, with countless hits and awards -- Earth, Wind & Fire will make their festival debut, performing a full-concert length set, including their complete light show. They'll appear in support of a new album, Now, Then & Forever. Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the most prestigious and popular headlining artists the festival has ever presented in its 37-year history.
Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet - Described by The New York Times as "a reliable captain of soul [who] can make almost any groove feel deep and inevitable," this Hammond B-3 organ master will make his festival debut, performing in support of his latest album, In The Beginning Vols. 1 & 2. The project spotlights a collection of Smith's original compositions from early in his career (most of which were initially documented on his classic mid-to-late 1960s Columbia Records and Blue Note Records albums).
Terence Blanchard - The multi-faceted trumpeter, bandleader, film-score and soundtrack composer returns to the festival for his fourth appearance as a leader and fifth overall. Terence Blanchard first played the festival with jazz legend Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers in 1985. Subsequently appearing at the festival with his own band in 1991, 1995, and more recently in 2008. This year, Blanchard will perform in support of his most recent Blue Note Records release, Magnetic, which was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award in December 2013.
Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band featuring Steve Smith & Tom Kennedy - The festival is proud to present the U.S. debut of a new "super band," led by virtuoso guitarist Mike Stern and renowned saxophonist Bill Evans (both sharing the common thread of having worked with Miles Davis in the 1980s). They are joined by an explosive rhythm section consisting of drummer Steve Smith and bassist Tom Kennedy, providing for a complete and vigorous set of jazz fusion at its best.
Jon Batiste & Stay Human - At 25, Jon Batiste is considered by many to be one of the most exciting and progressive new crossover talents on the scene today. A "Movado Future Legend" award recipient, and a "Steinway Performing Artist," Batiste has performed in innumerable prestigious events and venues across the world. His modern take on the American songbook, through the channels of a virtuosic pedigree in jazz and classical music, is attracting critical acclaim as well as audiences across all demographics. Together with his band Stay Human, Batiste is creating a unique grassroots movement that encourages accessibility and appreciation in the art of the live performance. Apart from his natural focus, Batiste is also a noted advocate for music education (Traveling Ambassador for Music Unites, Associate Artistic Director for the National Jazz Museum) and a regular figure in television and film (HBO's Treme, Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer). Batiste's appearance will be his first since 2008, the year he made his festival debut.
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters - Appearing at the festival only once in 1997, guitarist Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters will make their long-awaited return in 2014. Earl is considered a New England blues guitar legend -- a staple on the local blues circuit for years (having received praise from blues masters such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters).
Robin McKelle & The Flytones - Hailing from Rochester, New York, vocalist Robin McKelle placed third in the 2004 Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition. However in recent years, McKelle's music has been beyond generic classification as a jazz vocalist. Alternatively, she has fully embraced classic rhythm & blues, traditional pop music, and soul styles. Her latest album, Soul Flower, released on Sony Music's recently re-launched OKeh Records, showcases her passion for classic American R&B. Her second, forthcoming OKeh album, titled Heart of Memphis, strikes a chord with a more roots-centric sound. McKelle will make her festival debut.
Marc Cary Focus Trio featuring Rashaan Carter & Sameer Gupta - Multi-dimensional keyboardist Marc Cary, who will make his festival debut as a leader, has credits ranging from Abbey Lincoln and Dizzy Gillespie to Erykah Badu and Q-Tip. A four-time GRAMMY® Award nominee (through collaborations), Cary successfully released his first solo piano record in mid-2013 on Motéma Music, titled For The Love Of Abbey (a tribute to his mentor and collaborator Abbey Lincoln). The festival will spotlight Cary in a different format, with his Focus Trio (featuring Rashaan Carter & Sameer Gupta). Fusing East Asian, Indian, African, and Native American influences within the African-American blues and jazz traditions, Focus Trio recently released their second Motéma album, titled Four Directions.
Lew Tabackin Trio - 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 leader (first appearing with his own group in 2000). Performing with his Trio, Tabackin will break tradition and appear on the intimate Gazebo Stage (having always performed on the Amphitheatre stage in previous festival editions). 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 4th consecutive Swing Journal Reader's poll.
Jaimeo Brown with JD Allen & Chris Sholar - Renowned drummer, composer and conceptualist 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. Joined by guitarist/producer Chris Sholar (Q-Tip, Kanye West, Jay Z) and saxophonist JD Allen, Brown will make his festival debut.
Mary Halvorson Trio with John Hebert & Ches Smith - 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, appearing with her longstanding trio - her flagship ensemble - featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith. In addition to the trio, Halvorson leads a quintet, a chamber-jazz duo and is also an active member of bands led by Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, Marc Ribot, and Tom Rainey, among others.
Trombone Shorty - 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. The New Orleans born and bred musician has had a meteoric rise since the release of his GRAMMY® nominated 2010 debut album, Backatown and released a follow up album, For True, in 2011.
Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra - 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 (marking his second overall appearance). Performing with his Salsa Orchestra, Palmieri is known as one of the finest Latin jazz pianists of the past 50 years. His music is renowned for its infectious sound, distinctive orchestrations and trailblazing style (the first to incorporate elements of salsa, funk, soul, jazz, and a band comprised of Latin and African-American musicians).
Patti Austin - A GRAMMY® Award-winner who crosses all musical genres, has made 17 solo albums, and has performed her award-nominated hit songs on the GRAMMYS® and the Oscars, acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Patti Austin will make her festival debut. Austin has had a star-studded career that began at the age of four, making her one of the most beloved artists in the world and a mainstay on the Billboard Jazz Albums charts. Her 2007 release, Avant-Gershwin (Rendezvous), was awarded a GRAMMY® for "Best Jazz Vocal Performance."
Dave Holland Prism with Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn & Eric Harland - 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. The project features guitarist Kevin Eubanks (who appeared at the festival with his own group in 2013), keyboard specialist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. Holland recently released Prism's debut album (of the same name), marking 40 years since his first recording as a leader, Conference of the Birds (ECM).
Newport Jazz Festival®: Now 60 - Anat Cohen, Karrin Allyson, Randy Brecker, Mark Whitfield, Peter Martin, Larry Grenadier & Clarence Penn Newport Jazz Festival® - Now 60 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). Concert repertoire spans the ages--from Louis, Duke, and Miles to Latin, Brazilian, and fusion--making the leader of this international touring group, clarinetist Anat Cohen, a perfect ambassador for the Newport Jazz Festival. The ensemble features vocalist Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Clarence Penn.
Quinn Sullivan - Blues guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan will make his festival debut as a leader, after a rousing surprise guest appearance with legendary bluesman Buddy Guy last year. Currently 14 years old (soon to be 15 in March 2014), Sullivan was given a toy guitar for Christmas at age three, and it quickly became apparent he had a gift. By age eight, Buddy Guy discovered Sullivan and became a mentor, fostering Sullivan's development. Sullivan has since gone on to appear on national television shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Ellen, Oprah, The Today Show, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as performing at iconic venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Apollo Theater and the Beacon Theater. He appeared on Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden in April 2013.
Melissa Aldana Crash Trio with Pablo Menares and Francisco Mela - Chilean-born/New York City-based saxophonist Melissa Aldana recently won the 2013 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz saxophone competition, judged by a panel of saxophonists that included Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, Bobby Watson, Branford Marsalis and Jane Ira Bloom. As the first female instrumentalist to take first prize in this event since its inception in 1987, the 24-year-old Aldana was awarded $25,000 in scholarship money and a recording contract with the Concord Music Group. Aldana debuts at the festival with her Crash Trio, featuring bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Francisco Mela.
Tim Berne's Snakeoil with Oscar Noriega, Matt Mitchell & Ches Smith Saxophonist - Tim Berne will make his festival debut, performing with his working ensemble, Snakeoil. The New York Times describes the band as "an investigative chamber-improv group," having released two critically acclaimed albums on ECM Records, titled Snakeoil and Shadow Man, respectively. Byrne will be joined by clarinetist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell, and drummer/percussionist Ches Smith.
Warren Wolf & Wolfpack - One of the most important young jazz stars today, vibraphonist Warren Wolf makes his festival debut as a leader, following an appearance with his longstanding mentor Christian McBride in 2012. A multi-instrumentalist who has also honed his chops on drums and piano since age three, Wolf is quickly following in the footsteps of vibes masters such as Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton, as a "keeper of the flame." He became a member of the SFJAZZ Collective in 2013 (a post that Hutcherson inaugurated in 2004). Additionally, he recently performed at the Detroit Jazz Festival in duo with Gary Burton, whom is Wolf's labelmate on Mack Avenue Records. Wolf released his sophomore Mack Avenue effort, Wolfgang, in 2013. He performs at the festival with his group, Wolfpack.
Sean Jones Quartet with Orrin Evans, Luques Curtis & Obed Calvaire - Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and educator Sean Jones will make his festival debut, performing with his working Quartet that features pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Obed Calvaire. In addition to releasing six albums as a leader on the Mack Avenue Records label over the past 10 years, Jones is the former lead trumpeter for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Additionally, Jones toured extensively with Marcus Miller in 2010, followed by a special European tour project with Miller, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter during the summer of 2011 (a direct nod to the Miles Davis legacy).