Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival 2021, @ SPAC (Day 1), 06/20/2021
SARATOGA SPRINGS — After a year of absence for a live SPAC Jazz Festival, though there was a ‘virtual’ one with several artists in 2020 performing under an apprehensive and questioning future, the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival 2021 kicked off at noon that Saturday with the Hot Club of Saratoga (presented in partnership with Caffe Lena).
Under ongoing gray clouds and the possibility of a little rain at any time the SPAC Jazz Festival ran its course to past 5:30 p.m. without a drop hitting a single head. The former jazz-piano child prodigy, Joey Alexander, and his trio took the stage and presented a vast musical landscape of his influences and spiritual mentors.
The audience in the amphitheater was still restricted under the NYS Governor’s COVID-19 restrictions, so they were spaced sparingly row-by-row in the hall that could seat 12,000 in its hay day, but now was restricted to a couple thousand at best. Though the restrictions had been lifted a week-and-a-half earlier, there was not enough time to try to bring it up to full capacity through publicity and promotions.
Following Joey Alexander, the fabulous Dianne Reeves took the stage; her crack-perfect band accompanied her propelling her voice through originals and standards by, among others, Nina Simone. Even in jazz, it’s kind of like popular music. The jazz world recognized Nina Simone as a great songstress that was overshadowed by others at her time, but they elevated her to a jazz ‘goddess’ and now everyone, including Reeves, has re-discovered her to sing Simone’s songs and pay tribute to that, now, legendary Chartreuse!
Bassist and bandleader Christian McBride’s New Jawn was a powerful group that traversed the history of modern jazz with explosive trumpet, saxophone, and drum accompaniment throughout the almost 1.5-hour set.
Though the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival 2021 at SPAC did run two stages from noon to way past 11 p.m. in the past, it still was an amazing event though everything, four acts only, set an example for the future coming out of a pandemic and still presenting something of substance.
SPAC, itself, had a makeover in 2020 while we were all wearing masks and afraid of everything in our world. They silently built new buildings (with taxpayer money) with the goal of redesigning the bathrooms, concession stands and VIP area (oh boy, it will cost you, it was $75 a person at the jazz fest, who knows what it will be for the Live Nation Events) with a two-floor building. Check my photographs for the visual landscape.