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Saratoga Jazz Fest 2020: Headliners Include Rock Hall Of Famer Nile Rodgers, With Chic, And Kool & The Gang

The two-day jazz fest takes place June 27 - 28 and will feature 24 groups with 16 festival debuts, including Kool & The Gang, Taj Mahal and Tiempo Libre.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nile Rodgers will be headlining this year's Saratoga Jazz Festival. (Nile Rodgers Productions)

The Saratoga Jazz Fest is turning the funk up to 11 in 2020. The annual two-day affair, which this year runs from Saturday, June 27 through Sunday, June 28 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), will feature headliners such as Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nile Rodgers, with his band Chic, and Kool & The Gang; plus, iconic Southern blues guitarist Taj Mahal. In all, this year’s lineup will present 24 acts, with 16 festival debuts, including both headliners and some hot, new up-and-comers such as the Gullah-inspired quintet Ranky Tanky and 18-year-old, blind jazz piano virtuoso Matthew Whitaker.

“This year’s festival will be two jam-packed days of music on two-stages—one huge musical party celebrating everything from funk to soul, blues to R&B, classic jazz, roots and Latin,” Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC, tells saratoga living. “Our headliners Nile Rodgers and Chic and Kool & The Gang of hit the song ‘Celebration’ will create an irresistible atmosphere.”

In honor of Kool & The Gang, the theme to this year’s festival will be “Celebrate/Good Times,” an homage to the group’s 1980 smash hit “Celebration.” Just as in previous years, the Saratoga Jazz Fest will feature two stages of entertainment, with performances beginning on the Charles R. Wood “Jazz Discovery” Stage each day at 11am and shows on SPAC’s main amphitheater stage beginning at 12:45pm. SPAC will also once again be teaming up with the City of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce to kick off the festival with Jazz Fest Friday, a festive, music-filled event throughout Downtown Saratoga.

Tickets to the Saratoga Jazz Fest go on sale to SPAC members on January 29 and to the general public on February 11. For more information, click here. Check out the full lineup below.

Saturday, June 27

Amphitheater:

Nile Rodgers and Chic
Nile Rodgers hardly needs an introduction. Over the years, the Grammy-winning composer/guitarist/producer and co-founder of Chic has helped pen or produce a slew of chart-topping singles, including “Le Freak” and “Good Times” (both by Chic), “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie), “Upside Down” (Diana Ross) and, more recently, “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk).

Cassandra Wilson
Hailed as “America’s Best Singer” by Time magazine in 2001, two-time Grammy-winning, jazz singer-songwriter Cassandra Wilson will be returning to SPAC to give Saratogains a taste of her smooth-as-honey vocals.

Issac Delgado and His Afro-Cuban Big Band
A salsa and timba specialist, the Cuban-born Issac Delgado has won various awards and accolades as an innovative composer, vocalist and performer.

Ozmosys featuring Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Linley Marthe and Kurt Rosenwinkel
The groovy, improvisatory quartet Ozmosys is one of the latest projects from legendary and versatile drummer Omar Hakim who’s worked with such musical titans as Weather Report, Miles Davis, Madonna and David Bowie.

Fly Higher: Charlie Parker at 100, featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa, Terri Lyne Carrington, Charenée Wade, Adam O’Farrill, Kris Davis, Larry Grenadier and Kassa Overall
The birthday centennial of master American saxophonist and composer Charlier Parker will be celebrated in big band style with this concert put on by renowned co-musical directors Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto saxophone) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums).

Amina Figarova Sextet plus Strings
Making her Jazz Fest debut, Amina Figarova is a New York-based pianist and composer who, along with her sextet, has been popular at major music festivals such as the Newport Jazz Festival and the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Charles R. Wood “Jazz Discovery” Stage:

Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt, with Dawn Thomson, Nadje Noordhuis, Jeff Lederer and Martin Wind
The New York-based drummer Matt Wilson’s latest recording, Honey And Salt—Music Inspired By The Poetry Of Carl Sandburg, was on more than 30 worldwide “Best of 2017” lists and now is heading to SPAC.

Javon Jackson Quartet featuring Jimmy Cobb
Tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson first came into the jazz spotlight in the late ’80s, playing as a member of famed drummer Art Blakey’s band The Jazz Messengers. Since then, Jackson has performed with such greats as Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Ben E. King and soon at SPAC with celebrated drummer, Jimmy Cobb, who’s the last surviving member of the Miles Davis’ band that recorded the 1959 jazz opus Kind of Blue.

Little Freddie King
Delta blues guitarist and singer Little Freddie King is one of the most sought-after bluesmen in New Orleans and has jammed with great blues masters such as Bo Diddle, John Lee Hooker and ’50s blues icon Freddie King, who inspired Little Freddie King’s style and name.

Connie Han Trio
At just 23 years old, rising star and innovative jazz pianist Connie Han has already recorded a debut album, the 2018 Crime Zone, and been signed to Steinway & Sons celebrated artist roster—and soon will be making her Jazz Fest debut too!

Emmaline
Emmaline is an up-and-coming, four-piece R&B band founded by guitarist Ryan Mondaklead and lead singer/songwriter Emmaline Campbell.

Sunday, June 28

Amphitheater:

Kool & The Gang
When it comes to good-feeling, funky vibes, there’s no band more iconic than Kool & The Gang. After two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards and more than 70 million albums sold worldwide, it’s fair to say that Kool & The Gang’s hits, such as “Celebration,” “Joanna” and “Jungle Boogie,” will live on as funk/jazz standards forever.

Taj Mahal
Living legend and blues guitar master Taj Mahal has won two Grammy Awards (three if you count his collaboration with blues musician Keb’ Mo’ on their 2017 album TajMo) in addition to 13 nominations over the course of his stunning half-century career picking and singing the blues.

The Brubeck Brothers Celebrate Dave Brubeck’s Centennial, with Mike DeMicco and Chuck Lamb
Musical siblings Chris (bass) and Dan Brubeck (drums) will celebrate the centennial of their father, the late composer/pianist Dave Brubeck, who wrote the indelible jazz standard Take Five, with their quartet featuring guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb.

Eliane Elias
Brazilian pianist, singer and composer Eliane Elias infuses her music with a soulful, samba-rich elegance, and with nearly 30 albums under her belt, has won a Grammy Award and received multiple nominations.

Matthew Whitaker
At only 18 years old, blind piano virtuoso Matthew Whitaker already has the kind of career that most artists would dream of. He was invited to perform at Stevie Wonder’s induction into the Apollo Theater’s Hall of Fame at just the age of 10, and last year, dropped his second album, Now Hear This, to critical acclaim.

Charles R. Wood “Jazz Discovery” Stage:

Kurt Elling/Danilo Pérez Duo
Both making their Jazz Fest debut this year, vocalist Kurt Elling and Panamanian pianist-composer Danilo Pérez are towering figures in the jazz scene. Both have taken home Grammys, and throughout their careers, both have worked with some of the greatest names in the industry, including Jon Hendricks, Buddy Guy, Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter.

Ranky Tanky
Steeped in the sounds and traditions of the Gullah culture of South Carolina and Georgia, the brand-new Charleston-based Ranky Tanky had their debut 2019 album Good Time nominated for a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Music Album.

Tiempo Libre
In addition to three Grammy nominations, upbeat, Afro-Caribbean music group Tiempo Libre has also been quite popular on television, being featured on a number of programs including The Tonight Show, Live from Lincoln Center and Dancing with the Stars.

Carolyn Wonderland
For the first time in her career, guitar-playing spitfire and vocal powerhouse Carolyn Wonderland will be bringing her soulful, traditional Texas blues, à la Stevie Ray Vaughan, to Saratoga Jazz Fest.

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis, featuring Camila Meza, Scott Robinson, Jorge Roeder and Eric Doob
Trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle has played with almost everyone—from David Bowie and Sufj­an Stevens to Wynton Marsalis, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake—and now Keberle, along with his band Catharsis, will make his Jazz Fest debut.

Caffé Lena Presents Joyful Noise
Joyful Noise is an uplifting, Saratoga-based ensemble of musicians and singers led by Spa City soul man Garland Nelson and Albany-based vocalist/pianist Azzaam Hameed.

Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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