SPAC’s Freihofer Jazz Festival Line-Up

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings performing at The Egg last month

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Michael McDonald

Yes, it looks as though vocalists – mostly female – are taking center stage at this year’s Freihofer Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs. The two-day fest will begin at 12noon on Saturday and Sunday June 25 & 26.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of tribute performances built into the fest again this year. Saxman Donald Harrison Jr. leads a tribute to the city of New Orleans and the knock-out HBO TV series “Treme.” Dee Dee Bridgewater pays tribute to Billie Holiday. And the fab trio of vocalists Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright pay tribute to a trio of great late female vocalists and civil rights fighters, Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta.

And the whole festival is something of a tribute to its founder and longtime producer, George Wein, who will not only lead an all-star jazz ensemble from his piano bench, but will also be honored with a star on SPAC’s Walk of Fame.

Here’s the slate of performers for the fest. Performance times will be announced at a later date:

SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 12noon

Michael McDonald: From Steely Dan to the Doobie Brothers to a long and successful multiple Grammy winning solo career, McDonald’s soulful voice is instantly recognizable. (Amphitheater)

Dee Dee Bridgewater: The veteran jazz vocalist is making her fifth SPAC jazz fest appearance (dating back to the first one in 1978) with a tribute to Billie Holiday. (Amphitheater)

George Wein & the Newport All Stars: In addition to being the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, the Saratoga Jazz Festival and hundreds of other celebrated music events over the past half century, Wein in also a notable jazz pianist, and he’ll be joined by an all-star band featuring guitarist Howard Alden, saxophonists Lew Tabackin and Anat Cohen, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. (Amphitheater)

Jack DeJohnette: The master drummer (and Woodstock neighbor) has been hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most important musicians in the last 40 years of jazz.” His band features composer-saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, guitarist David Fiuczynski, keyboardist George Colligan and bassist Jerome Harris. (Amphitheater)

Eliane Elias: The pianist-vocalist blends her Brazilian roots with her impressive jazz skills and classical influences. (Amphitheater)

Ben Allison: The visionary composer-bassist leads an adventurous band that also features guitarist Steve Cardenas, multi-talented violinist Jenny Scheinman, trumpeter Shane Endsley and drummer Rudy Royston. (Amphitheater)

Lionel Loueke: The African guitar great was one of the few bright spots at Herbie Hancock’s otherwise dismal performance at Tanglewood last summer. This time he leads his own band – also featuring bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth – as he showcases selections from his excellent new album “Mwaliko.” (Amphitheater/Gazebo)

Hilary Kole: The jazz vocalist makes her SPAC debut in support of her acclaimed sophomore album, “You Are There.” (Gazebo)

Dan Ouellette: It’s time for something new at the fest, as the jazz journalist moderates a live session of the time-honored DownBeat Blindfold Test with bassist Ben Allison. (Gazebo)

Steve Cardenas: The versatile composer-guitarist makes his Saratoga debut, showcasing selections from his latest album “West of Middle” with a band that features drummer Rudy Royston and – here’s that name once again – bassist Ben Allison. (Gazebo)

The Marcus Strickland Quartet: The saxophonist sounded great last summer at SPAC blowing with Ben Williams & Sound Effect in the Spa Little Theater. This year, he leads his own band. (Gazebo).

SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 12noon

“Sing the Truth!”: Three powerhouse female vocalists Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright join forces for a special tribute to recently departed jazz and civil rights legends. Also expect to hear songs by great women of music from Billie Holiday to Lauryn Hill, along with some of the singers’ own original tunes. This same program is also scheduled for the Tanglewood Jazz Festival in Lenox at 8pm on Sunday, September 4. (Amphitheater)

“A Night in Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans”: Mardi Gras Indian Chief and alto saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. leads a Crescent City krewe of musicians in tribute to the great city of New Orleans. (Amphitheater)

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: You saw them at The Egg last month, right? Well then, there’s no reason for me to ramble on about their glorious and gritty, old-school blend of hellfire gospel, smoldering soul and get-down funk. (Amphitheater)

The Bad Plus: The cutting edge trio of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King played at Saratoga’s Skidmore College in November, and now they make their SPAC amphitheater debut in support of “Never Stop,” their first album of all original songs. (Amphitheater)

Tia Fuller: She would bring down the house with her wailing solos as a member of Beyonce’s band. Now the flutist-saxophonist leads her own quartet in support of her latest album, “Decisive Steps.” (Amphitheater)

Pedrito Martinez: The Latin jazz bandleader, vocalist and conga player pulls double duty with performances in the amphitheater and the gazebo with a band that features keyboardist Axel Tosca Laugart, pianist-vocalist Ariacne Trujillo, bassist Alvaro Benavides and percussionist Jhaire Sala. (Amphitheater/Gazebo)

David Binney: The prolific, adventurous young saxman not only plays with fire, but also with vision.’s pick for the Under the Radar, But Don’t Miss This award for the fest. (Gazebo)

Brian Mitchell: A longtime member of the Levon Helm Band, the pianist is quite fluent in blues, Latin, New Orleans R&B and funk. (Gazebo)

Matt Slocum: The dynamic drummer on the NYC jazz scene made his debut recording as a bandleader with last year’s “Portraits.” (Gazebo)

Rebecca Coupe Franks: The veteran trumpeter-composer makes her SPAC jazz fest debut in support of her latest album, “Check the Box.” (Gazebo)


Ampthitheater: $50-$75
Amphitheater (children under 12): $40-$65
Lawn (advance): $45
Lawn (at the gate): $50
Lawn (children under 12): FREE

Amphitheater: $45-$65
Amphitheater (children under 12): $35-$55
Lawn (advance): $45
Lawn (at the gate): $50
Lawn (children under 12): FREE

TWO-DAY ALL FESTIVAL PASS (available only til May 9)
Amphitheater: $88-$130
Amphitheater (children under 12): $70-$110
Lawn: $85

Online ticket sales for SPAC members only begins on Thursday, February 24. Online ticket sales for the general public begins on Thursday, March 24.

  1. LP says

    Greg…I agree with you on David Binney…..looking forward to him and Steve Cardenas @ Gazebo

  2. J Hunter says

    Michael McDonald aside (“Bums on seats, laddie! Bums on seats!”), this is the first time in a few years where the Gazebo didn’t blow away the Amphitheater on a quality/talent basis. That said, Marcus Strickland should be amazing, and if Binney plays music from his latest disc (which is VERY much out there), he’s going to make The Bad Plus sound like the Kingston Trio. 🙂

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