Call It a Comeback: Saratoga Jazz Fest Returning to SPAC in June

The Saratoga arts organization will be hosting a COVID-safe version of Jazz Fest June 26-27.

A scene from Saratoga Jazz Fest weekend 2019. (Francesco D'Amico)

After being forced to cancel its entire classical season last year due to COVID—and hosting nary a Live Nation act—the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is slowly, deliberately and most importantly, safely, getting back to its bread and butter.

First, it announced the return of live performances from longtime summer resident the New York City Ballet (NYCB), though the schedule is limited and only a portion of the company is making the trek. It’s also teaming up with fellow arts organization, Opera Saratoga, to help it put on a series of performances.

Big question marks, though, have surrounded the music portion of its pre-COVID schedule. Will there be an appearance by the Philadelphia Orchestra? Since the Dave Matthews Band confirmed September tour dates at the venue, does that mean there will be a shortened Live Nation season? And what of the popular Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival?

Well, at least one of those can now be checked off the list: Late on April 30, the Saratoga arts organization dropped a teaser on its social media, announcing that the Saratoga Jazz Fest would, indeed, be returning this summer, and its set to take place June 26–27. The cryptic post read, “We can’t wait to reunite with you on SPAC’s beautiful grounds for two days of LIVE jazz! This summer, “The Hang” will look a little bit different due to COVID-19 safety guidelines and regulations that SPAC will be adhering to, as mandated by NY State.”

Last year’s Jazz Fest was canceled due to the pandemic, but not before a sprawling lineup was announced, that included everyone from Chic with Nile Rodgers and Kool & the Gang to Taj Mahal and Cassandra Wilson. After it was canceled for the first time in its 42-year run, another fellow arts organization, Caffè Lena, essential throughout the pandemic, stepped in and hosted a virtual Jazz Fest, featuring pre-taped performances by artists such as Jon Batiste and Béla Fleck.

The 2021 lineup has yet to be announced, and SPAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Saratoga Living on the details. This is a developing story.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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