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What you need to know for 08/23/2017



Gazette jazz writer Tim Coakley's picks for this summer. At left is trumpeter Terence Blanchard.

The Jazz One 2 One concert series will kick off the summer jazz season on Saturday at the Athens Cultural Center with the Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet. The converted storefront will provide an intimate setting for the group, which features Dempsey on guitar; Ferguson, bass; Joel Frahm, saxophone; and Eliot Zigmund, drums.

The free noontime concert series Jazz on Jay, on the Jay Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Schenectady, starts on June 7. The series showcases some of the best of the Capital Region’s musicians and singers. Vocalist April Marie will lead off, followed each week through August by such performers as Keith Pray, Nat Phipps, Brian Patneaude and the Gals Who Play Jazz.

The Swingtime Jazz Society and A Place for Jazz are joining forces to present Italian violinist Luca Ciarla’s quartet at the Van Dyck in Schenectady on June 23. Ciarla, who is on a world tour, blends contemporary jazz and ethnic music to create what has been described as a Mediterranean jazz sound with a gypsy touch. The event will be preceded by a Jazz Heroes party honoring longtime jazz DJ Bill McCann.

Skidmore College will again present its fine Summer Jazz Institute concerts, starting on June 26 with the Terence Blanchard Quintet and continuing on July 3 with the Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Quintet. In between, the Skidmore Faculty Sextet, made up of an outstanding array of musicians, will give two concerts. All these are free.

In the midst of the Skidmore events is the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on June 30 and July 1. Between the amphitheater and the gazebo, it’s wall-to-wall music. This year’s lineup includes Esperanza Spalding, Christian McBride and Inside Straight, the Mingus Big Band, vocalist Catherine Russell, piano whiz Hiromi, and Latin percussionists Steve Kroon and Pedrito Martinez.

Don’t forget the Proctors Jazz Institute, conducted each summer by Keith Pray and a staff of experienced musicians. They show kids of all ages how to play together, develop their instrumental skills and get a chance to solo. This year’s guest instructor is trumpeter Ray Vega, who will perform with the students at the final concert in the GE Theatre on July 27. Those who heard last year’s finale, with a roomful of young musicians roaring away with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, will never forget it.

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