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What you need to know for 01/16/2018

Music icon Tony Bennett to headline Jazz Festival

Music icon Tony Bennett to headline Jazz Festival

The 36th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will be held on Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, Ju

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The 36th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will be held on Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, June 30, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

This year’s headliners include Tony Bennett, Buddy Guy, David Sanborn and Bob James, McCoy Tyner Quartet featuring special guest John Scofield, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Kevin Eubanks, Gregory Porter and Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak, among others.

As part of its 100th anniversary celebration, Freihofer’s Baking Co., title sponsor of the event since 1998, will have an expanded presence at this year’s festival, including a fireworks finale on Sunday and giveaways of its famous chocolate chip cookies throughout the two days.

“Headlining this year’s festival will be the one and only Tony Bennett, a superstar whose music and timeless appeal have cemented his status as an American icon,” Marcia J. White, SPAC’s president and executive director said in a statement to the press. “It will be another ‘can’t miss’ weekend for jazz fans across the Northeast.”

Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival

WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park

WHEN: June 29 and 30

HOW MUCH: Amphitheater: $80-$55; Lawn: $55. Discounted prices for two-day passes availble through May 1. Kids 12 and under are free on the lawn

BUY TICKETS: starting March 18 at


In addition to festival headliners performing in the amphitheater, Gazebo Stage programming will feature a mix of established and emerging jazz artists. The lineup includes: Gary Smulyan Quartet; Carmen Souza; Ben Williams & Sound Effect; Gilad Hekselman Trio; Chris Bergson Band, Donny McCaslin Group, Ingrid Jensen Band, and also introducing Brianna Thomas, all of whom are making their festival debut. The stage will also feature returning saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa with his new band, Gamak.

A lot going on

While two days and two stages of live, world-class jazz is the centerpiece of the weekend, there will also be a fine arts and crafts fair, CD signings by artists, a full-service bar in the Hall of Springs, and Southern-style barbeque and other food vendors. Guests can bring their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas. Parking for the event is free.

Belgian beer company Stella Artois returns to the festival this year and is the lead sponsor of the lawn experience (“the hang”).

The Saratoga 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. SPAC has an inside seating capacity of 5,200 and lawn seating of 20,000, and the festival draws fans from across the Northeast and throughout North America.

Tickets are available online now for SPAC members; online sales to the public begin March 18. Tickets and information are available at

2013 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Performers

Saturday, June 29:


• David Sanborn and Bob James

Returning for their 11th and fourth festival appearances, respectively, the saxophonist and pianist will perform material from their coming release, “Quartette Humaine,” their first collaboration since their 1986 album, “Double Vision.” Their band includes legendary drummer Steve Gadd.

• McCoy Tyner Quartet with special guest John Scofield

Best known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet, as well as his solo career, pianist and NEA Jazz Master Tyner returns for his first appearance since 2005 and sixth overall with his quartet. Considered to be one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century, Tyner will feature special guest guitarist John Scofield, who will be returning for his fourth time.

• Gregory Porter

Vocalist Porter will be making his festival debut, which follows his recent Grammy nomination in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category for his album “Be Good.”

• Big Sam’s Funky Nation

This New Orleans funk band is led by trombone powerhouse, Big Sam Williams, formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

• The Cookers

The super-group, making its festival debut, features trumpeters Eddie Henderson and David Weiss, saxophonists Billy Harper, and Craig Handy, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Billy Hart.

• Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak

With his original fusion of East and West, jazz mixed with the sounds of his Indian heritage, Mahanthappa will perform with his new quartet (guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, bassist François Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss), in support of their new self-titled album. This will be Mahanthappa’s fourth festival appearance.


• Gary Smulyan Quartet

The baritone saxophonist will perform with his all-star band from his new album, “Smul’s Paradise,” featuring B3 organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Kenny Washington.

• Carmen Souza

Born and raised in Lisbon and now living in London, vocalist Carmen Souza’s unique style combines traditional rhythms and song forms with jazz and Brazilian influences.

• Ben Williams & Sound Effect

Bassist Williams’ warm, woody tone and melodic phrasing won him the 2009 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. His band includes Marcus Strickland on saxophones, who led his own group at the 2011 festival.

• Gilad Hekselman Trio

The Israeli guitarist makes his festival debut; Hekselman’s appearance is part of the festival’s ongoing discovery of international jazz musicians.

• Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak (see earlier listing)

Sunday, June 30:


• Tony Bennett

Entering his seventh decade as a recording artist with 17 Grammy Awards to his credit, the singer has been both a Kennedy Center Honoree and NEA Jazz Master. Bennett, who has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, made history again in 2011 when his CD “Duets II” debuted at the top of the Billboard Album charts, making Bennett the oldest vocal artist ever to achieve the No. 1 spot.

• Buddy Guy

In a career that spans nearly 50 years with more than 50 albums released, blues legend Buddy Guy will make his long-awaited return after becoming a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2012. Guy last played the Jazz Festival in 1999.

• Preservation Hall Jazz Band

The legendary New Orleans jazz group, which has traveled worldwide for decades, last performed at the festival in 2006.

• Ladysmith Black Mambazo

The male choral group from South Africa that rose to worldwide prominence as singing with Paul Simon on his album “Graceland” makes its festival debut. The group, formed in 1960, has won multiple awards including three Grammys.

• Kevin Eubanks will return to the festival in his first appearance since his debut in 1996, with Bill Pierce, Rene Camacho and Marvin “Smitty” Smith. Perhaps best known as the leader of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno band, the guitarist has also established himself as a prolific composer and jazz guitarist.

• Donny McCaslin Group

The acclaimed saxophonist, known for his solo work and collaborations with Dave Douglas and Maria Schneider, will perform with pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana.


• Chris Bergson Band

Blues guitarist/singer/songwriter Bergson will make his festival debut, performing with saxophonist Jay Collins, B3 organist Bruce Katz, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Tony Leone.

• Donny McCaslin Group (see earlier listing)

• Ingrid Jensen Band

The Canadian trumpeter, making her festival debut as a leader, has played with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the IJQ with Geoffrey Keezer, Project O and Nordic Connect.

• Brianna Thomas

This young vocalist, quickly making a name for herself in the New York scene, most recently performed with Wynton Marsalis as part of his “Meet Me at the Crossroads” lecture series at Harvard University.

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