Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Announces 2019 Line-Up of Bands for SPAC

Jame Carter
James Carter (photo by Albert Brooks)

Photographs by Albert Brooks, Andrzej Pilarczyk, Rudy Lu

The 2019 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will feature 22 musical groups on two stages at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Saturday & Sunday, June 29 & 30. Headlining the fest will be Norah Jones, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and veteran guitarist-singer George Benson.

“This year’s festival will excite long-time jazz lovers, while also continuing SPAC’s expanded vision to bring innovative artists and legends that have never before graced our stage, including a record number of female-led groups,” says Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “Devoted jazz festival fans and lovers of great music are in for a completely unique experience this summer, enhanced by the incredible atmosphere and unmatched beauty of our natural park setting.”

SPAC also announced that Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Friday, a collaboration with the city of Saratoga Springs to celebrate the rich history of jazz in Greater Nippertown, will return on Friday, June 28. Once again the event will feature Spa City businesses welcoming locals and visitors with scores of live jazz events, themed dining, and social dance options that will serve as the kick-off to the fest at SPAC. Details for the Friday event are TBA.

While two-days and two-stages of live, world class jazz is the centerpiece of the weekend festival, fans can also enjoy fine arts & crafts, CD signings by performers, southern style barbeque and other food vendors. Festival-goers are also welcome to bring in their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and
lawn umbrellas.

Single day tickets are priced at $78, $88, $98 & $108; lawn $68. Two-day, all-festival tickets are $136, $156, $176 & $196; lawn $116.

By popular demand, SPAC is also bringing back the $20 student and child amphitheater pass, available for children ages 15 and under and students with school-issued ID at time of entrance. Children ages 15 and under are free on the lawn.

Tickets will be available exclusively to SPAC members at 10am on Monday, February 4 and will go on sale to the general public at 10am on Friday, February 15.

Here’s the complete line-up for the 2019 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival:

George Benson (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)
George Benson (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

AMPHITHEATER (beginning at 2pm)

GEORGE BENSON: Singer, guitarist and The 10-time Grammy Award winning guitarist-singer returns for his 12th Jazz Fest performance. He became a crossover pop sensation in 1976 with the release of Breezin’ featuring the hit, “This Masquerade,” which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Benson has released 36 studio albums in a career that spans five decades.

LOS VAN VAN: Celebrating their 50th anniversary, the Grammy Award-winning group is one of the most influential bands in the history of 20th century Cuban pop music. Named after the go-go fad, Los Van Van is credited with the creation of a popular genre of Cuban music called songo – a rhythmic and supremely danceable style of music.

KANDACE SPRINGS: Making her SPAC debut and best known for her graceful, smoky voice and an intensely expressive mastery over the piano, Kandace Springs has emerged as a refreshing assimilation of multiple musical styles including R&B, jazz and pop, transforming those influences into a unique, personalized sound.

JAMES CARTER ORGAN TRIO: Just as comfortable in furious, high-velocity solos as he is waxing sentimental – the bruising, yet tender sax master has reinvented the organ combo, explored the music of alt-rock band Pavement, collaborated with composer Roberto Sierra, and most recently reconfigured the saxophone into a keen array of electronics with James Carter’s Elektrick Outlet.

MERCY PROJECT: Pianist, composer, arranger and producer Jon Cowherd will perform his debut album as a leader with the band featuring Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Steve Cardenas. Sonically, Cowherd’s touch on the keyboard is deft and bluesy, and his scope as a composer is expansive.

DONNA GRANTIS: Known for her extraordinary technique and soulful playing, the Canadian guitarist leads a five-piece group that is wholly unique in today’s music scene. Set to release her much anticipated debut album in 2019, Grantis is best known for performing with Prince in his groups 3RDEYEGIRL and New Power Generation.

Joe Locke
Joe Locke (photo by Rudy Lu)

DISCOVERY STAGE (beginning at 12noon)

ANTONIO SANCHEZ & MIGRATION: The Mexican-American jazz drummer and composer has worked with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny and played drums on the Grammy Award-winning Pat Metheny Group album, Speaking of Now. Sánchez also solidified his reputation as a composer with his score for the award-winning film, “Birdman,” which earned him nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and more – winning the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best
Score and Satellite Award for Best Original Score.

LIONEL LOUEKE & RAUL MIDON: Originally from the small West African nation of Benin, guitarist Lionel Loueke was named top Rising Star guitarist in DownBeat’s 2008 & 2009 Critics Polls. He has released numerous albums on several labels and performed with his mentor Herbie Hancock on the Grammy-winning River: The Joni Letters. In addition to releasing 10 studio albums as a solo artist, guitar virtuoso Raul Midón has collaborated with such legends as Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, in addition to Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg.

VERONICA SWIFT: At age 24, she’s one of the top young jazz singers on the scene. In 2015, she took second place at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. In 2016, she was a guest artist with Michael Feinstein at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where she made her debut at age 11 as part of the Women in Jazz series. She’s making her Jazz Fest debut accompanied by the Emmet Cohen Trio featuring pianist Emmet Cohen, drummer Kyle Poole and bassist Russell Hall.

BLACK ART JAZZ COLLECTIVE: The BAJC brings together an accomplished ensemble of young African American musicians – co-founded by drummer Johnathan Blake, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt – who felt that it was necessary to celebrate Black culture in a positive way. BAJC will also feature trombonist James Burton III, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Carl Allen.

JOE LOCKE’S SUBTLE DISGUISE: One of the major voices of the vibraphone, he is a five-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year Award, has received two Earshot Golden Ear Awards for Concert of the Year, and the 2013 Hot House NYC Jazz Award for Best Vibes Player. In 2016, Joe was honored with the induction into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Locke will be joined by Grammy nominated singer-songwriter-guitarist Raul Midón.

Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

AMPHITHEATER (beginning at 1pm)

TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE: Part Jimi Hendrix, part James Brown and all New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is a trombone and trumpet virtuoso. Blending traditional New Orleans styles with rock, funk, soul and hip-hop, Andrews and his band throw down blistering, high-energy live shows have drawn unanimous raves worldwide. Rolling Stone has called him a “must-see act.”

NORAH JONES: The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist has won a litany of awards throughout her nearly 20-year career, including nine Grammy Awards. Since releasing her 2002 solo debut, Come Away With Me, she’s sold more than 50 million records worldwide, and was named the top jazz artist of the 2000-2009 decade by Billboard.

DJANGO FESTIVAL ALL-STARS: Returning to the Jazz Fest for their second appearance, the band brings the music of the legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt into the 21st century. The group will be joined by special guests – Columbian harpist Edmar Castañeda and award-winning singer-saxophonist Grace Kelly.

JOSHUA REDMAN QUARTET: Over a series of celebrated recordings, Redman established himself as one of jazz’s most adventurous saxophonists and successful bandleaders. He has played with such greats as Dave Brubeck, the Rolling Stones, Chick Corea, the Dave Matthews Band, Yo Yo Ma, Big Daddy Kane and Quincy Jones, to name just a few. Redman’s quartet will also feature Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson.

JOEY DeFRANCESCO TRIO: With his vintage Hammond and Leslie speaker, he launched a renaissance of the organ trio in the 1980s. He has received multiple Jazz Journalist Association awards and other accolades worldwide, including being an inaugural inductee to the Hammond Organ Hall of Fame in 2014, the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame in 2016 and topping DownBeat’s Critics Polls 11 times over the past 15 years. DeFrancesco will make his festival debut as a leader in a performance featuring legendary drummer Billy Hart.

Allison Miller
Allison Miller (photo by Rudy Lu)

DISCOVERY STAGE (beginning at 11am)

RUTHIE FOSTER: Described by Rolling Stone as “pure magic to watch and hear,” boasting seven Blues Music Awards and three Grammy nominations, Ruthie Foster’s immense vocal talent was honed in worship services at her community church, drawing influences from the likes of Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin.

ALLISON MILLER BOOM TIC BOOM: A powerhouse drummer with an unerring sense of swing and a moving melodicism, an inventive composer with a gift for memorable tunes that leave ample space for bright improvisations, and a bandleader who ably marries these pieces with the right collaborators to breathe life into them, Allison Miller and her band will feature music from their newly released album, Glitter Wolf. Miller will be joined by jazz violinist Jenny Scheinman, pianist Carmen Staaf, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and bassist Todd Sickafoose.

CHA WA: From the funk-laced beats and bass-heavy sousaphone blasts to the gritty warmth of
singer J’Wan Boudreaux’s voice, Cha Wa is a New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians band that is garnering national acclaim, including a current Grammy nomination for their album Spyboy in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category.

YOUN SUN NAH: Youn Sun Nah’s voice and personality have touched hearts all over the globe, recording more than a half-dozen acclaimed studio albums and performing at the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Seoul.

JOEL HARRISON’S ANGEL BAND: The guitarist-composer-arranger-vocalist bridges the worlds of jazz, classical and Americana with musical traditions from India and Africa. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, and his penchant for risk-taking extends to his most recent album, Angel Band. Harrison’s band for his Jazz Fest debut will feature pianist Jon Cowherd, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Brian Blade.

KANSAS SMITTY’S HOUSE BAND: Featuring Saratoga Springs native Giacomo Smith (alto saxophone, clarinet), the band makes jazz inclusive with an emphasis on camaraderie, spontaneity and joy. 2018 was a landmark year, with members of the House Band appearing at the Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, Friday Night is Music Night and Jazz at Lincoln Center. In addition to Smith, core members include Pete Horsfall (trumpet, vocals); Adrian Cox (clarinet); Joe Webb (piano); David Archer (guitar); Ferg Ireland (bass) and Will Cleasby (drums).

HIGH MUD COMEDY FEST @ MASS MoCA, North Adams, March 29 & 30
GREEN RIVER FESTIVAL @ Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, July 12-14
WOODSTOCK 50 @ Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, August 16-18
BETHEL WOODS MUSIC AND CULTURE FESTIVAL @ Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, August 16-18

  1. J Hunter says

    Looks like the “Artist Formerly Known as the Gazebo Stage” Stage will be the place to be, as usual. (Norah Jones? Really?) The exception to the rule will be Saturday’s opening act. Seriously, do NOT sleep on Donna Grantis! I was the emcee for her NYC Winter Jazz Fest appearance at The Bitter End, and she blew the doors off the place. The world needs more guitar superheroes, and she could be the next one! And Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom on a small stage? That’s a gift that keeps on giving!

  2. rudy says

    Without question, Trombone Shorty and Ruthie Foster are the cream of the crop in any festival. Wish there’d be re-visit by Cassandra Wilson and Ronnie Earl, too.

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