Jazz Season 2012

Road Trekking to Saratoga

There is simply nothing more chill than hanging at a weekend Jazz Festival, unless of course, you make it a road trip with your very cool 16-year-old daughter.

To say that it was a weekend that will long live in my memories is an understatement. And I hope when I get old and don't remember a thing, that the event sticks in my daughter's memory as well...as a memory of her crazy mother and a quest to obtain images of Mom's favorite photographic subjects on a Nikon DSLR CMOS sensor (geek talk for excellent equipment) with a "monster lens."

That's how I refer to the Nikon 80-400 mm zoom lens that I tote with pride in its own case. Attached to my various Nikon DSLR bodies (D300, D7000), it is a force to be reckoned with.

In the case of the Jazz Trek weekend 2012, it really came in handy, along with my impromptu work to steady the massive bulk of lens dangling around my neck. I had forgotten my tripod and my monopod, and my press pass wasn't valid until the second day of the show.

That wasn't going to stop me though. I was on a quest to see live Jazz in the summer warmth and for me, there is nothing better to sooth the soul. My original plan had been to drive to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. I couldn't get the press pass in time to get great access..and my daughter had a party to attend. I was somewhat bummed for one of my favorite Jazz/Smooth Jazz/Pop artist's, trumpeter Chris Botti, was scheduled for Montreal. It was okay though; I could catch some other great acts during the week, I'd just have to shift the schedule.

But voila-I had a thought-wasn't this also the weekend of the Friehofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY? One trip to the internet confirmed it; Yes, it was happening on the weekend of June 30th/July 1! As I read the website, I double-checked. It was June 29th when I made this discovery! I still had time to make a plan! And BONUS, Chris Botti was playing the pavilion on Saturday night! And my daughter could come with me! It was meant to be.

So, with a few clicks, I made a hotel reservation for my daughter and me; bought tickets for the day for the pavilion seats (although not as close to the stage as I would have liked, hence the need for the monster lens), prepared snacks and a picnic, and on Saturday morning I filled the car with gas, and away we went, me and my 16-year-old brilliant conversationalist companera!

We arrived at the show and parked for free, and walked in just in time to catch Delta blues vocalist Catherine Russell on the Gazebo stage. And we took front row seats and waited for Mario Abney, a favorite of the festival, and a acquaintance of mine from New Orleans. Abney, at 34, has incredible jazz chops, SWAG as my daughter would say (although she has blessed me with the same compliment). Abney plays with his band, the Abney Effect. The "Effect" is nothing short of mesmerizing; Abney plays with heart, soul and tempo, a passionate jazz man inspired by Wynton Marsallis and his late mother Ora. Abney's song, "Ora" will bring a lump to your throat. Abney invited friends to play with him and brought down the figurative house, or Gazebo roof as it were.

Taking a break, my daughter and I had some impromptu dinner and found our Pavilion seats, only to be further mesmerized by Esperanza Spalding, a non-stop improv technique on stand-up and electric bass. Great show!

I watched the purple tour bus back in and knew that Chris Botti had arrived. He came very quietly onstage and with his first clear note on his trumpet, made my heart sing. Despite my long and intimate experience in the jazz world, (I've met everyone!), it the first time I heard Botti live. What at treat; a treat made even better by Botti's special guest and killer vocalist, Lisa Fischer and their on-stage interplay.

We wrapped up the evening with the funky sounds of the legendary Maceo Parker and took to the improv dance floor behind the seats.

The quality of the little festival put on in Saratoga by Dan Melnick of Absolutely Live Entertainment is second to none.

I got some great images during my evening with the Nikon and the "monster lens" but the most satisfaction I got from the event was knowing that I spent it with my daughter, and that she enjoyed the process almost as much as me. Being the daughter of a passionate music lover, I guess I should expect no less. She knows that good music is good music. It defies genre.

We rounded out our weekend with a mother-daughter shopping trip in the trendy shops in Saratoga on Sunday and made the trek home. A perfect weekend.- live Jazz, awesome photo ops, and my daughter.

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Toddi Norum