The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival is a cultural immersion experience, just as quintessentially Saratoga as the summer Thoroughbred races (or, if you’re from Alabama like me, going to Talladega). And now Saratoga jazz fanatics will have a little something more to be thankful about this June—a bumping Friday night of jazz in Downtown Saratoga—prior to the festival bearing down on the Saratoga Performing Arts Center the weekend of June 23-24.
In order for the jazz festival to greater drive economic growth in the Capital Region, SPAC has partnered with representatives from a number of Saratoga’s top businesses and organizations, including Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, Skidmore College, Caffè Lena and Absolutely Live Entertainment President and producer of the jazz festival, Danny Melnick. The group held a press conference at Caffè Lena on May 22 to discuss the festival’s expanded role with the business community this year as well as Saratoga’s history and contributions to jazz through music fixtures like the Skidmore College Jazz Institute and Caffè Lena.
This year’s Saratoga Jazz Fest will kick off a day early, Friday June 22, and run all weekend, expanding the two-day music festival into a community-wide, three-day event. Visitors and locals will be entertained with scores of jazz-themed events, dances and concerts scattered across Downtown Saratoga. The idea is to bring the festivities to the people—that any store or business could be holding a jazz-related surprise behind its doors for you. “The cultural tourist spends 60 percent more than the average leisure tourist,” said Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC’s President and CEO. “Adding an evening of programming to showcase Saratoga’s vibrant downtown and our incredibly talented local jazz musicians is a win for our community and an added value for out-of-town guests.”
So expect to see a lot more live performances and events at local restaurants and businesses such as Caffè Lena, the National Museum of Dance, Northshire Bookstore, The Adelphi Hotel, Kru Coffee, The Local, Sperry’s, The Gideon Putnam, Hampton Inn & Suites, Morton’s the Steakhouse and many more. By far, the premier event will be “A Night on Bourbon Street” at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. Presented by SPAC’s Action Council, this Gatsby-inspired party will feature music from jazz trumpeter and singer Bria Skonberg, as well as New Orleans-styled food and cocktails provided by Lily and the Rose gourmet catering. Tickets for “A Night on Bourbon Street” start at $150 and are available at spac.org.
Founded in 1978 by jazz promoter and producer George Wein—the same man who founded the famous Newport Jazz Festival—the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival is the fifth longest-running jazz festival in North America. For its 41st year, the Saratoga staple’s lineup will include headliners such as Jon Batiste, Herbie Hancock and R&B legend Mavis Staples. Many will make their Jazz Fest debut, including Lakecia Benjamin and SoulSquad, José James and Scott Sharrard & The Brickyard Band.