LIVE: Skidmore Jazz Institute All Stars @ Caffe Lena, 06/29/2021

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The summer cultural season in Saratoga Springs is gradually making a comeback.

The annual Skidmore Jazz Institute held during early summer is still virtual, but the live faculty concerts that the community enjoys has made a modified comeback. The concert was not held in the beautiful Zankel Arts Center on the Skidmore campus, but instead in the still beautiful but smaller Caffe Lena.

Artistic director Todd Coolman led a quartet of the faculty/ maestros to a full, COVID-spaced house. The quartet treated the audience to a concert of standards that jazz fans and musicians alike are familiar with.

A lively version of “Love Walked In” seemed to walk the audience into the reality of listening to live music again. With strong emphasis on the melody by saxophonist Jimmy Greene and Dave Stryker. “Without A Song,” the standard made famous by Frank Sinatra, was not a slow swinging number like Frank’s, but also swung like crazy and cheerfully more like the Sonny Rollins version. Miles Davis’ “7 Steps to Heaven” was played next, with much aplomb. The rhythm section of Todd Coolman and Dennis Mackrel set the pace for the quartet to burn through it. Todd prefaced the playing of the tune by talking about the late Tony Williams, who was a 17-year-old drummer that burned through it in the original recording.

Local Jazz great and fellow faculty member Bob Halek played the next two songs. “You Stepped Out of A Dream” was played with a Latin beat. “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” the melody was savored with the gentle brushwork of Halleck, Jimmy Greene’s mellow sax and Wes Montgomery like stylings of Dave Stryker.

Herbie Hancock’s “picturesque “ Dolphin’s Dance” and the swinging Miles Davis “Joshua“ closed out the set.

Hopefully, the concert series will begin again in 2022 at the Zankel. This will certainly hold the local jazz community in place for a while.


  • Love Walked In
  • Without A Song
  • 7 Steps to Heaven
  • You Stepped Out of a Dream
  • Polka Dots and Moonbeams
  • Dolphin Dance
  • Joshua


  • Todd Coolman-Bass
  • Dennis Mackrel-Drums
  • Jimmy Greene- Sax
  • Dave Stryker-Guitar

The final concert for the institute will feature institute alumni and Blue Note recording artist James Francies.

Photo Gallery by Rudy Lu

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