Festival Fever: The Line-Up for Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival 2012

Mario Abney
Mario Abney

Back by popular demand…

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center has announced the complete line-up of acts for the 35th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, which is slated to take place at 12noon on Saturday June 30 and Sunday, July 1.

And from headliners Chris Botti and Diana Krall to gazebo performers like the Trio of OZ and Mario Abney & the Abney Effect, this summer’s Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival is all about the encore.

Yes, the vast majority of the acts who have been booked for this summer’s jazz fest are returning for the second or third (or more) time – including such bands as the Pedrito Martinez Group and the Brian Mitchell Band, who both performed at the fest just last year.

Fortunately, there are a few new faces who will be making their SPAC debut this summer, including the Mingus Big Band and the vibrant New Orleans supafunkrockers Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

“Over the past 35 years, more than half a million fans have experienced the extraordinary combination of music and atmosphere that has made the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival into one of the longest-running and most celebrated music events in the world,” said Marcia J. White, SPAC’s president and executive director.

“Throughout all of these years, the two things that have consistently remained are high quality music and the audience’s dedication and enthusiasm for the music,” stated Danny Melnick, president of Absolutely Live Entertainment which co-produces the festival with SPAC. “This year’s festival has been programmed to celebrate these two things.”

Here’s the line-up:

Esperanza Spaulding
Esperanza Spalding


CHRIS BOTTI: The trumpeter has sold nearly three million albums worldwide, thanks in large part to his ongoing association with PBS-TV. This will be Botti’s fourth appearance at the festival. His last appearance was in 2008. (Amphitheater)

ESPERANZA SPALDING’S RADIO MUSIC SOCIETY: The bassist-vocalist-composer made her SPAC debut at the Gazebo Stage in 2007. Since that time, Spalding has emerged as one of the brightest lights in the music world, including earning a Grammy as Best New Artist (the only jazz musician to ever earn that award) for her 2010 album, “Chamber Music Society.” (Amphitheater)

MACEO PARKER: The master saxophonist perfected his sound as the sax blaster behind such Kings of Funk as James Brown, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins. He returns to SPAC for his first jazz fest appearance in a dozen years. (Amphitheater)

THE MINGUS BIG BAND: Hailed as one of the “best jazz orchestras in the world” by The Washington Post, the Grammy Award-winning 14-piece big band celebrates the music of the legendary bassist-composer Charles Mingus in their SPAC debut. (Amphitheater)

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE & INSIDE STRAIGHT: The extraordinary bassist-composer took home a Grammy Award just last week. He’ll be making his fourth appearance at SPAC as a bandleader – most recently in 2003 – and his first with his band Inside Straight. (Amphitheater)

MICHEL CAMILO & THE MANO A MANO TRIO: In his fifth SPAC appearance, the Grammy and Emmy Award-winning pianist-composer fuses jazz, classical and Afro-Caribbean music with an all-star trio that also features master conguero Giovanni Hidalgo and bassist Charles Flores. (Amphitheater)

MARIO ABNEY & THE ABNEY EFFECT: With an exciting, energetic sound that draws equally from the inspiration of Miles Davis and New Orleans’ second line brass band tradition, the trumpeter and his band were one of the brightest discoveries at the 2010 jazz fest, and they’re coming back for two more performances this summer. (Amphitheater/Gazebo)

THE JEREMY PELT QUINTET: The Berklee College of Music grad and acclaimed trumpeter was last in town as a member of Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band in concert at The Egg last year. He last performed at the jazz fest in 2004. (Gazebo)

SARAH MORROW’S ELEKTRIC AIR: The trombonist holds the distinction of being the first female instrumentalist to become a member of Ray Charles Orchestra. Gazebo)

CATHERINE RUSSELL: The sublimely soulful jazz and blues singer was just in concert last night at MASS MoCA, celebrating the release of her brand new album, “Strictly Romancin’.” (See interview.) (Gazebo)

THE PEDRITO MARTINEZ GROUP: Fueled by the explosive Cuban-born conga master Martinez, the band made its SPAC debut with two performances at last year’s festival, earning a slot on the Top 10 Performances of the Year list by Nippertown’s own J Hunter. (Gazebo)

Sachal Vasandani
Sachal Vasandani


DIANA KRALL: The pianist-vocalist returns to the jazz fest for her fourth appearance – following three consecutive performances from 1999-2001. She’s on a roll this year, playing on Paul McCartney’s new album (yes, that was her playing with Sir Paul on the Grammy show last week) and contributing “Simple Twist of Fate” to the new “Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International” all-star compilation. (Amphitheater)

TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE: The high-energy trumpeter-trombonist is one of the most acclaimed musicians on the contemporary New Orleans music scene with his “supafunkrock” sound which melds New Orleans’ irresistible second-line strut with funk, rock, R&B and hip-hop. (Amphitheater)

HIROMI: The dazzling Japanese pianist-composer was the surprise highlight of the 2003 festival with her exuberant Gazebo Stage performance, and now she’s finally returning for a second appearance… this time on the big stage. (Amphitheater)

ARTURO O’FARRILL & THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA: The pianist-composer-bandleader created the orchestra a decade ago for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and they’re currently in residence at New York City’s Symphony Space and Birdland. This will be their SPAC debut. (Amphitheater)

THE YELLOWJACKETS: Having recently celebrated their 30th anniversary as a group, the fusion band’s long-standing members keyboardist Russell Ferrante, saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Will Kennedy will be joined by bassist Felix Pastorius while co-founder Jimmy Haslip embarks on a year-long hiatus from the group. (Amphitheater)

THE TRIO OF OZ featuring OMAR HAKIM & RACHEL Z: Drummer Hakim, keyboardist Rachel Z and bassist Solomon Dorsey return to the festival following their 2010 SPAC debut, which featured powerhouse renditions of tunes from the songbags of Coldplay, Stone Temple Pilots and the Police. (Amphitheater & Gazebo)

THE STEVE KROON SEXTET: The Harlem-born conga master and percussionist is equally at home in the worlds of jazz, Latin and R&B. (Gazebo)

SACHAL VASANDANI: The up-and-coming jazz vocalist made his Saratoga debut in concert at the Spa Little Theater in 2010, and now he’s returning in support of his latest album, “Hi-Fly.” (Gazebo)

THE BRIAN MITCHELL BAND: Keyboardist-vocalist (and member of the Levon Helm Band) Mitchell and his band made their SPAC debut last year, serving up a spicy stew that was equal parts Memphis soul-blues and New Orleans second line strut – with a bit of tango thrown in for good measure. (Gazebo)

EDMAR CASTANEDA: The Columbian jazz harpist returns to SPAC in support of his new album, “Double Portion.” He previously performed at the jazz fest in 2006. (Gazebo)


Ampthitheater: $65-$80
Amphitheater (children under 12): $40-$65
Lawn (advance): $55
Lawn (children under 12): FREE

Amphitheater: $50-$70
Amphitheater (children under 12): $35-$55
Lawn (advance): $55
Lawn (children under 12): FREE

Amphitheater: $95-$140
Amphitheater (children under 12): $65-$110
Lawn: $90
Lawn (children under 12): FREE

Tix for the fest are currently on sale online now for SPAC members only; online sales for the general public will begin on Monday, March 12.

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