Photo Gallery: Freihoifer's Saratoga Jazz Festival
Household names and newer arrivals mesmerize in upstate New York
For more than 30 years the jazz faithful have ventured to beautiful Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for a weekend of jazz at the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival. Rising stars and living legends alike perform on two stages, rain or shine, thrilling adoring audiences with a wide variety of music. From straight-ahead jazz to fusion, award-winning R&B to electric blues, there's always something for everyone. "The Hang," as the laid-back atmosphere is known, is one of America’s great jazz festivals.
This year's event did not disappoint, as Danny Melnick, festival producer, once again assembled an eclectic and electric lineup of seasoned musicians balanced by nascent younger players. Megastar performers like Earth Wind & Fire, who closed Saturday's festivities on the amphitheater stage, were juxtaposed with new faces on the jazz scene, including Chilean-born saxophone phenom Melissa Aldana and her Crash Trio on the smaller, more intimate Gazebo stage.
The blues was well-represented by elder statesman Ronnie Earl, who provided his usual professional and dynamic set, as well as young guitar whiz Quinn Sullivan, who at the ripe old age of 15, can channel Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton, yet maintains his own voice with inventive original compositions.
Melnick, who as head of Absolutely Live Entertainment assists legendary impresario George Wein in producing the Newport Jazz Festival, even assembled a special group known as Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60, who have toured the country this spring, culminating in a keynote performance at Newport in August. Household jazz names like Randy Brecker and Karrin Allyson joined more recent arrivals such as Anat Cohen and Mark Whitfield in mesmerizing the amphitheater patrons with their musical wizardry.
For many jazz aficionados, Saratoga has become a required stop that rings in the first weekend of summer. At Saratoga you will see many tents with signs proudly proclaiming 30+ years of attendance, and the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival will hopefully continue to sponsor a rich tradition in jazz for many years to come.
Bruce Johnston captured highlights of the 2014 festival with his camera.