Thanks to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), we can all unplug our laptops, get back outside and enjoy some live music again. In partnership with Absolutely Live Entertainment, the Saratoga arts organization is bringing back the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival June 26–27 for the first time since COVID hit, with headliners Dianne Reeves, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Christian McBride’s New Jawn, Al Di Meola, Joey Alexander and Artemis, the latter presented by the Skidmore Jazz Institute. Also performing will be local superstars Garland Nelson, leading “Joyful Noise,” and Hot Club of Saratoga, both presented by Caffè Lena.
Gates will open each day at 10am, with performances scheduled from noon to 6pm. As required by the State of New York, all attendees will have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event.
“Our Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival is always one of the most exhilarating and anticipated weekends of the year, kicking off our summer season,” says Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC. “While this year’s festival will look a little bit different as a result of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, the very fact that we will once again be able to join together on the SPAC grounds for live music feels absolutely miraculous. Once again, we are grateful to Freihofer’s, which has been a generous and steadfast supporter of the festival for the past 24 years.”
The return of the festival isn’t just a big deal for fans. “Programming this year’s festival has been an emotional experience,” says Danny Melnick, president of Absolutely Live Entertainment, who has co-produced the event since 2009. “Most of the artists will be performing live for the first time since March 2019 and they are all excited to come back to SPAC! The power of live music is peerless and I know the festival will be an inspiring weekend for all of us.”
In order to maintain social distancing and uphold mandated guidelines by the State, the 2021 festival will feature performances from noon to 6pm on both days, all scheduled for the main amphitheater stage. Guests are welcome to bring in food in a clear plastic bag and factory sealed water; there will also be food and beverage options available to purchase onsite. Additionally, guests are permitted to bring in their own blankets (none larger than their designated pod size), chairs, personal umbrellas or clip-on umbrellas and essential personal items.
Ticket-holders who kept their seats from the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will be reseated in similar locations and contacted by the SPAC box office in advance of Jazz Fest weekend. SPAC members will have early access to tickets, depending on membership level, beginning on May 18. Tickets will then be available to the public on May 21.
Designated pods of two will be allocated and reserved for ticket buyers in the amphitheater, while designed pods of two and four will be available on the lawn. Amphitheater tickets start at $130 per pod, which seat up to two people. Lawn tickets are available to purchase for $150 for a two-person pod, or $300 for a four-person pod. Single tickets will be extremely limited and available starting at $65 for the amphitheater and $75 for the lawn. Advance ticket purchases are strongly advised as ticket availability will be limited. If available, tickets will be on sale on the day of but are subject to an additional fee. Non-member tickets can be purchased, beginning on the 21st, here.
Below, find the full Jazz Fest schedule:
Saturday, June 26
Reeves, one of the preeminent jazz vocalists in the world, is a five-time Grammy winner. She’s been featured in George Clooney’s six-time Academy Award nominated Good Night, and Good Luck, and has recorded and performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Reeves was the first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the first vocalist to ever perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Reeves’s most recent release Beautiful Life, features Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway and Esperanza Spalding. Produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, it won the 2015 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. Reeves is the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School. In 2018 the National Endowment for the Arts designated Reeves a Jazz Master, the highest honor the US bestows on jazz artists.
Christian McBride’s New Jawn
Seven-time Grammy-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride draws from his hometown roots in Philadelphia for his latest project, Christian McBride’s New Jawn. On the group WBGO says, “Built from the ground up—with McBride on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums, Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, and Josh Evans on trumpet—the band combined post-bop harmonic daring with a good dollop of axle grease.”
Indonesian jazz pianist, contemporary bandleader and composer Joey Alexander will return to the Saratoga Jazz Fest for his third appearance. Alexander, who will celebrate his 18th birthday at the festival, is the youngest jazz artist ever nominated for a Grammy in a jazz category. As heard on WARNA, his new Verve Records debut, he’s emerged as one of the most expressive and thrilling pianist-composers currently at work in jazz, earning three Grammy nominations. Known for his precocity, his music, including original work and personalized interpretations of great songs, has now taken its place in the spotlight.
Hot Club of Saratoga
Making its festival debut, Hot Club of Saratoga is Upstate New York’s premier gypsy swing ensemble, performing a repertoire that reflects the spirit and style originated by Django Reinhardt and The Quintet of the Hot Club of France prominent in the 1930s. The driving rhythms under dynamic soloing give the music a life and vibrancy that inspires an irresistible desire to dance.
Sunday, June 27
Cécile McLorin Salvant
Recently named “Female Vocalist of the Year” by the 2021 Jazz Journalists Association, Cécile McLorin Salvant is a composer, singer and visual artist. Salvant has developed a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between vaudeville, blues, folk, theater, jazz and baroque music. Salvant is an eclectic curator, unearthing rarely recorded, forgotten songs with strong narratives, interesting power dynamics, unexpected twists and humor. She has received Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her three latest albums, The Window, Dreams and Daggers and For One To Love, and was nominated for the award in 2014 for her album WomanChild. In 2020, Salvant received the MacArthur fellowship and the Doris Duke Artist Award. Salvant’s latest work, Ogresse, is a musical fable in the form of a cantata that blends folk, baroque, jazz and country.
Named the 2021 Jazz Journalist Association’s “Mid-Size Ensemble of the Year,” Artemis is an all-female supergroup comprising of pianist and musical director Renee Rosnes, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Allison Miller. Named after the Greek goddess, the group is distinctive not only for bringing together artists, each renowned for their own remarkable solo career; but also for its multigenerational and globe-spanning lineup, with members hailing from the US, Canada and Japan. Their Blue Note Records debut was released in September 2020.
Al Di Meola
A bona fide guitar hero and perennial poll-winner, Al Di Meola has been recognized internationally over the past four decades as virtuoso of the highest order. A prolific composer and prodigious six-string talent, Di Meola has amassed over 20 albums as a leader while collaborating on a dozen others with the likes of the fusion supergroup Return To Forever (with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White); the celebrated acoustic guitar trio featuring fellow virtuosos John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia; and the Rite of Strings trio with bassist Stanley Clarke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
Garland Nelson’s Joyful Noise
Led by “soulist” and bandleader Garland Nelson, who was originally scheduled to make his festival debut in 2020, Joyful Noise is a spirit-lifting ensemble of musicians and singers. The inspirational Joyful Noise Choir is made up of the blended voices of powerful, step-out soloists accompanied by a driving rhythm section creating a sound that will enter your being like a breath of pure, fresh air.