Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Line-Up for 2013 Announced

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

Story by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk, J Hunter, others

The 36th annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival takes over the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with 19 performances by veteran musicians and up-and-comers alike. The two-day fest rolls into SPAC on Saturday and Sunday, June 29-30 with headline performances by the timeless Tony Bennett, blues legend Buddy Guy, South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the pairings of Bob James with David Sanborn and McCoy Tyner with John Scofield.

The fest co-presented by SPAC and Absolutely Live Entertainment. And since veteran jazz impresario George Wein brought the first jazz fest to SPAC in 1978, the annual festival has gone by several different names – the Newport Jazz Festival-Saratoga, the Kool Jazz Festival and the JVC Jazz Festival. But Freihofer’s has been the title sponsor since 1998, so as the company celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, we gotta give ’em a big thank-you for more than just their wicked good chocolate chip cookies.

In her statement, SPAC president and executive director Marcia J. White declared, “As the encore to last year’s unforgettable 35th anniversary celebration, our 2013 festival will feature another dazzling line-up of legends and luminaries from across the jazz spectrum… It will be another ‘can’t miss’ weekend for jazz fans across the Northeast.”

Tickets for Saturday’s fest are $55, $75 & $80; children 12 and under $40, $60 & $65 (lawn free). Tickets for Sunday’s fest are $55, $70 & $75; children 12 and under are $40, $65 & $70 (lawn free). Two-day tickets are $100, $135 & $145; children 12 & under are $70, $105 & $115 (lawn free). Tickets to the festival will go on sale to the general public online on Monday, March 18; SPAC box office and phone sales will begin on Wednesday, May 15.

Here’s how the line-up shakes out for the 2013 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival:

David Sanborn
David Sanborn @ The Egg in October, 2011 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczy)

Returning for their eleventh and fourth festival appearances respectively (James’ last appearance was with the group Fourplay in 2002), the saxophonist and pianist will perform material from their upcoming OKeh release, Quartette Humaine – their first collaboration since their 1986 album, Double Vision. This is the first time they have toured together as co-leaders, and their band includes the legendary drummer Steve Gadd. (Amphitheater)

McCoy Tyner (photo by Gene Martin)
McCoy Tyner (photo by Gene Martin)

Best known for his groundbreaking work with the John Coltrane Quartet, as well as his prosperous solo career, pianist and NEA Jazz Master McCoy Tyner returns, for his first appearance since 2005 and sixth overall, with his quartet. Considered to be one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century, Tyner will feature special guest guitarist John Scofield, who will be returning for his fourth time. (Amphitheater)

Vocalist Gregory Porter will be making his festival debut, which follows his recent Grammy nomination in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category for his dynamite Motéma Music album Be Good. Porter exhibits such an incredible degree of vocal mastery that no less a jazz luminary than Wynton Marsalis has gone on record to call him “a fantastic young singer.” (Amphitheater)

This New Orleans funk band is led by trombone powerhouse Big Sam Williams, formerly the trombonist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who The San Francisco Chronicle calls “the top man on the slide trombone in the birthplace of jazz.” This will mark the Funky Nation’s festival debut, also fans will certainly remember their dynamic performance at the 2011 Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. (Amphitheater)

The Cookers: Billy Harper, David Weiss, Eddie Henderson and Craig Handy
The Cookers: Billy Harper, David Weiss, Eddie Henderson and Craig Handy, performing in Waryas Park last August (photo by Rudy Lu)

Following their 2012 album Believe (Motéma Music), these legendary jazzmen, who have all proven themselves integral components in great bands of the past, will be making their festival debut, although jazz fans will likely recall their powerhouse performance at last summer’s Jazz in the Valley festival. The super-group features trumpeters Eddie Henderson and David Weiss, saxophonists Billy Harper and Craig Handy, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Billy Hart. The Cookers’ line-up serves as a lifeline to one of the music’s golden eras, a rare conglomeration of true living legends still making vital, modern music. (Amphitheater)

With his highly original fusion of east and west jazz mixed with the sounds of his Indian heritage, Mahanthappa will perform with his new quartet Gamak (guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, bassist François Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss), in support of their new self-titled album. This will be Mahanthappa’s fourth festival appearance and second as a leader (performing previously as a sideman for Vijay Iyer in 2002 and Jack DeJohnette in 2011). He also performed with Apex last September at Lake George’s Jazz at the Lake festival. (Amphitheater and Gazebo) 

Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan (photo by J Hunter)

Having performed numerous times at the festival with the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, Mingus Big Band and others, this will be Gary Smulyan’s first appearance as a leader. And he has played many times at other music venues throughout the Capital Region, including a date with Michael Benedict’s Bopitude at the Van Dyck in Schenectady on Saturday, March 30. At the SPAC fest, the baritone saxophonist will perform with his all-star band from his new critically acclaimed album, Smul’s Paradise, featuring B3 organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Kenny Washington. (Gazebo)

Born and raised in Lisbon and now living in London, vocalist Carmen Souza’s unique style combines traditional rhythms and song forms with jazz and Brazilian influences. The appearance will mark yet another watershed moment in the festival’s modern history of presenting the top-tier world music artists. (Gazebo)

Ben Williams
Ben Williams

Bassist Ben Williams’ warm, woody tone, flowing groove, melodic phrasing and storytelling approach is evident on his debut album, State of Art. He performed his first-ever concert as a bandleader in 2010 at SPAC’s Spa Little Theater, a year after winning the 2009 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. His band includes saxman Marcus Strickland, who led his own group at the 2011 festival. (Gazebo)

Gifted Israeli musician Gilad Hekselman has established a reputation as one of the most promising guitarists in New York since his arrival in 2004. The New York Times said, “Mr. Hekselman has set himself roughly up in the line of Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel, with a warm and clean guitar tone, clear articulation, crazily extended improvisational ideas, speed when he needs it, an advanced understanding of harmony, and the flexibility to go wherever his bands want…” This will be his festival debut. (Gazebo)

Plus one more Amphitheater band to be announced at a later date.

Entering his seventh decade as a recording artist with 17 Grammy Awards to his credit, Tony Bennett has earned his legendary status many times over. A Kennedy Center Honoree and NEA Jazz Master, Bennett’s unprecedented career was best described by The New York Times in 1993 when they noted that “Tony Bennett has not just bridged the generation gap, he has demolished it…” The singer, who has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, made history again in 2011 when his CD Duets II, debuted at the top of the Billboard Album charts, making Bennett the oldest vocal artist ever to achieve the No. 1 spot. (Amphitheater)

Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy @ The Egg in March, 2011 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

In a career that spans nearly 50 years with over 50 albums released, living legend of the blues, Buddy Guy, will make his long-awaited return to the festival after becoming a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2012. Anyone looking to learn more about the iconic singer-guitarist can do so in Guy’s new autobiography, “When I Left Home: My Story.” Guy last performed at the festival in 1999, but his most recent Capital Region concert was at The Egg in Albany in 2011. (Amphitheater)

As torchbearers of the traditional New Orleans jazz sound, the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band will return to the festival this year (their debut was in 2006). The band, which Rolling Stone said, “shines like a beacon of New Orleans jazz,” has traveled worldwide for decades, performing for everyone from British Royalty to the King of Thailand. The group recently received a NAACP Image Award and also performed alongside Dr. John and the Black Keys at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. The group’s most recent Capital Region performance was at last year’s Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival. (Amphitheater)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo @ The Egg, March 2012 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

The male choral group from South Africa rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his classic album, Graceland, and have won multiple awards including three Grammy Awards. Formed in 1960, the group is now recognized as one of the most successful world music acts and will be making their festival debut this year. Their most recent Capital Region concert was last year at The Egg in Albany. (Amphitheater)

Kevin Eubanks will return to the festival in his first appearance since his debut in 1996, although his most recent Capital Region performance was at the 2011 Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. Perhaps best known as the longtime leader of the house band for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the guitarist has also established himself as a prolific composer and jazz guitarist. With Bill Pierce, Rene Camacho and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, he will be celebrating The Messenger, his new album on Mack Avenue Records. (Amphitheater)

The acclaimed saxophonist has long been one of jazz music’s most striking voices, leading to long-running collaborations with innovators like Dave Douglas and Maria Schneider. His own solo work has been marked by a restless exploration that has only accelerated with his latest release, Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf Music), which The New York Times called an, “ambitious electro-acoustic venture – part gritty, part gleaming…” He performed last year at the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, and pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana will perform with McCaslin at this year’s festival. (Amphitheater & Gazebo)

This phenomenal blues guitarist-singer-songwriter will make his festival debut this year in support of his latest album Imitate the Sun. Bergson will perform with saxophonist Jay Collins, B3 organist Bruce Katz, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Tony Leone. (Gazebo)

Ingrid Jensen
Ingrid Jensen

Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, who makes her festival debut as a leader, can be heard with the Grammy Award-winning Maria Schneider Orchestra, the IJQ with Geoffrey Keezer, Project O, Nordic Connect and a number of other NYC-based bands. In 2003 she was nominated, for the second time, alongside trumpeter Dave Douglas for a Jazz Journalist Association Award in New York and is seen annually in the Top Five of the DownBeat Critics Poll in the “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” category. (Gazebo)

This incredible young vocalist is quickly making a name for herself in the New York scene. Will Friedwald of The Wall Street Journal said, “She may well be the best young straight-ahead jazz singer of her generation.” Most recently, Thomas performed with Wynton Marsalis as part of his “Meet Me at the Crossroads” series at Harvard University. (Gazebo)

Plus one more Gazebo band to be announced at a later date.

Here’s the complete schedule of performances:

12noon: Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak
1:20pm: The Cookers
2:50pm: Big Sam’s Funky Nation
4:20pm: The McCoy Tyner Quartet with John Scofield
5:45pm: Gregory Porter
7:25pm: David Sanborn & Bob James
9:10pm: Arturo Sandoval
Fireworks on the SPAC lawn in celebration of Freihofer’s 100th anniversary

12:25pm: The Gilad Hekselman Trio
1:45pm: Ben Williams & Sound Effect
3:10pm: Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak
4:35pm: Carmen Souza
6pm: The Gary Smulyan Quartet

12:30pm: The Donny McCaslin Group
1:50pm: Kevin Eubanks
3:20pm: Ladysmith Black Mambazo
5pm: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
6:45pm: Tony Bennett
8:30pm: Buddy Guy

12noon: The Fabian Almazan Trio
1:20pm: The Ingrid Jensen Quartet
2:40pm: The Donny McCaslin Group
4pm: Brianna Thomas
5:25pm: The Chris Bergson Band

Snoe.down @ Killington Ski Resort, Killington & Rutland, 3/21-24/13
Move Music Festival @ various locations, Albany, 4/26-27/13
Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain, Hunter, 6/6-9/13
A Taste of Country Music Festival @ Hunter Mountain, Hunter, 6/13-15/13
Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival @ Croton Point Park, Croton-On-Hudson, 6/15-16/13
Solid Sound Festival @ MASS MoCA, North Adams, 6/21-23/13
Old Songs Festival @ Altamont Fairgrounds, Altamont, 6/21-23/13
The Big Up @ Hemlock Hollow Farm, Clavarack, 8/8-10/13

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