Monday, March 23, 2009

Freihofer's Jazz Festival @ Saratoga Announces Full Lineup

Saratoga Performing Arts Center has just announced the addition of eleven more jazz ensembles to the lineup of its 32nd Annual Freihofer’s Jazz Festival. The Festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28, will feature more than 20 jazz performances over two days on SPAC’s Amphitheatre and Gazebo stages. Reserved and general lawn tickets start at $41.50/day and can be ordered online as of April 1 at 10 a.m. at

Saturday, June 27 additions include SMV - Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten - The Thunder Tour, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Mark Morganelli’s Jazz Forum Brazil Project, Kendra Shank Quartet and La Timbistica, The Berklee Latin All-Stars from Berklee College of Music.

The new additions to the Sunday, June 28 program are Bettye Lavette, George Coleman Quartet, Gino Sitson 4, Grace Kelly Band, and Ralph Alessi & This Against That.
Located in Saratoga Springs, New York, SPAC has been the site of the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival since 1978. With an inside seating capacity of 5,200 and lawn seating of 20,000, and just three hours driving time from Boston and New York, SPAC’s jazz festival draws thousands of jazz aficionados from across the Northeast, the U.S. and Canada.

“We are proud to finalize our full Freihofer’s Jazz Festival lineup and we believe this year’s program truly deserves a spotlight. With headliners that now include Dave Brubeck, Patti LaBelle, George Benson, SMV - Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, George Coleman, Bettye Lavette and Gary Burton alongside tributes to the seminal works Time Out and Kind of Blue, this year’s festival will offer something for all jazz fans,” said Marcia J. White, President and Executive Director of SPAC.

“In addition to world-class jazz, the Freihofer's Jazz Festival is known and loved by jazz fans from across the Northeast for its idyllic setting. Our lush lawn, framed by the majestic pines of the Saratoga Spa State Park, is the perfect place to stretch out and relax. With FREE parking, the opportunity to bring in food and beverages, blankets and tents, our festival offers a welcoming, vibrant atmosphere that enhances the whole jazz experience,” White added. “In addition we have affordable food for sale including our fabulous finger-licking barbeque, hamburgers, hot dogs and more, plus a full bar located in the beautiful Hall of Springs on site. Modern restroom facilities are also conveniently available.”

The 32nd Annual Freihofer’s Jazz Festival is co-presented by SPAC and Absolutely Live Entertainment, LLC, a festival, tour and concert production company led by industry veteran Danny Melnick. Melnick served as the festival’s artistic director and producer from 1999-2008. Further information on ALE can be found online at

“The interplay of fantastic world-class jazz, thousands of excited fans, and the postcard perfect beauty of the State Park gives this festival an energy all its own. It is a celebration in the best and truest sense, and the perfect kick-off to a great summer,” said White.

Saturday, June 27
FESTIVAL MAIN STAGE: Noon - 10:30 pm

Patti LaBelle, the “Queen of Rock and Soul,” last appeared at the festival in 1985. Hailed as “the high priestess of good vibrations,” by the New York Times, Patti LaBelle has a new album entitled Back to Now.

SMV – Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten – The Thunder Tour! In an era where sports fantasy leagues are all the rage comes a real-life historic teaming that serious music fans and bass players have long dreamed of. SMV unites music titans Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten. This is a unique alliance of three generations of bass gods!

Since their arrival in 2000, Spanish Harlem Orchestra has established itself as one of the hottest bearers of contemporary Latin music. Directed by world-renowned pianist, arranger, and producer Oscar Hernández, the thirteen-member all-star ensemble has reintroduced the classic sounds of New York City salsa to music lovers worldwide. United We Swing, SHO’s third album, is a stunning follow-up to their 2004 Grammy® award-winning album Across 110th St., and their 2002 Grammy® nominated debut, Un Gran Día En El Barrio.

The Gary Burton Quartet Revisited features five time Grammy® winner and pioneering vibraphonist Gary Burton with celebrated jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, bass guitarist Steve Swallow and drummer Antonio Sanchez.

Herbie Hancock described Miles Davis' Kind of Blue as “a cornerstone record, not only for jazz...but for music.” Drummer and recent NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb, who performed on the original recording, is joined by members of his “So What” band Wallace Roney, Vincent Herring, Javon Jackson, Larry Willis and Buster Williams to perform a tribute to the historic album.

Mark Morganelli & Jazz Forum Brazil Project: Led by trumpeter Mark Morganelli, this group features jazz interpretations of classic Brazilian music by Antonio Carlos Jobim with Monika Oliveira on vocals, John Hart on guitar, Nilson Matta on bass and Adriano Santos on drums.

Kendra Shank Quartet features jazz vocalist Kendra Shank, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tony Moreno. Hailed by The New York Times as a "superbly skilled vocalist" and an artist of "effervescence, depth," and "integrity" (Nate Chinen), she headlines at top venues across the U.S. and abroad, captivating audiences with her genuine warmth and musicality.

GAZEBO STAGE: Noon - 6:30 pm

Grammy® award winner and Miles Davis protégé Wallace Roney, performs with the Wallace Roney Quintet: Wallace Roney, trumpet; Antoine Roney, tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Rashaan Carter, bass; Aruan Ortiz, keyboards and Kush Abadey, drums.

Kendra Shank Quartet [see description from main stage above]

Of the Dred Scott Trio, The Village Voice said “blending pop, bop, pulse, and clatter, they get to a place that swings on its own terms.” The San Francisco Weekly described him as “a disciple of psychedelic subterfuge, coupled with post-cool intensity.” The trio consists of Dred Scott on piano, Ben Rubin on bass and Tony Mason on drums.

Steeped in the sounds of N’awlins’ Bourbon Street, deeply fused with New York’s jazz riffs and influenced by a long stint with guitarist Charlie Hunter’s band, John Ellis is one of the most exciting tenor saxophone players in the jazz world today. In Saratoga the John Ellis Quintet will consist of John Ellis on reeds, Aaron Goldberg on piano, Mike Moreno on guitar and Alan Hampton on bass. An ace drummer is soon to be announced.

La Timbistica, The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars, are winners of the 2008 Downbeat Student Music Award for Best Jazz Band. The All-Stars are six top scholarship Berklee students: Paul Stagnaro on congas, Enrique “Kalani” Trinidad on flute, tba on piano, Juan Maldonado on bass, Marco Lopez on timbales and Niv Toar on trumpet.

Sunday, June 28


Eight-time Grammy® winning singer/guitarist/songwriter George Benson will present an “Unforgettable” tribute to the great Nat “King” Cole along with some Benson favorites, accompanied by an electrifying 28-piece orchestra.

The legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet celebrates 50 years of Time Out – the first jazz album to go gold. Bassist Michael Moore, drummer Randy Jones and alto saxophonist and floutist Bobby Militello round out the quartet.

The reigning “Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year,” Bettye Lavette started 2009 with a bang. Lavette had the honor of performing Sam Cooke’s revered anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” in a duet with Jon Bon Jovi at the internationally televised [HBO] Barack Obama Inaugural Celebration, “We Are One,” held at The Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18.

When Bonerama struts onstage with its three-trombone frontline, you can guess it's not quite like any band you’ve ever seen. Then, when they tear into some vintage New Orleans funk, there's no questioning from which city these guys hail. And when those ’bones start ripping into Hendrix and Led Zeppelin licks, all stylistic bets are off. Hailing from a city that doesn't play by the rules, New Orleans’ Bonerama is really something different. Bonerama is Mark Mullins, Craig Klein and Greg Hicks on trombones, Bert Cotton on guitar, Jason Jurcak on bass, Joe Ashlar on keyboards and Eric Bolivar on drums.

No tenor saxophonist better epitomizes the robust muscularity of that heavyweight instrument of jazz expression than George Coleman. With brilliant technique and a deeply soulful tone firmly rooted in his hometown of Memphis, Coleman has performed with many of jazz’s most legendary figures and influenced countless saxophonists during his half-century in music. Coleman’s band will feature Harold Mabern on piano, John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.

The Gino Sitson 4 is a unique ensemble led by vocalist, body percussionist and composer Gino Sitson with Helio Alves on piano, Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Willard Dyson on drums and vocals. Through Sitson’s vocal wizardry and 4.5 octaves, he creates an endless range of sounds combining jazz, gospel, blues with traditional African rhythms and melodies, as well as freely exploring the use of his body as a percussion instrument. Born in Cameroon, Sitson comes from a long line of musicians, known as Ntontas, ("players of horns"). His mother is a vocalist and choir director and he grew up listening to African traditional music and also the blues and jazz records of his parents' record collection.

GAZEBO STAGE: Noon - 6:30 pm

Grace Kelly Quintet: Sixteen year old alto saxophonist, singer, composer and arranger Grace Kelly has wowed jazz fans in Boston for years. Now she has moved to a national stage, having just appeared at the Kennedy Center with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra last fall. She makes her first appearance at Freihofer’s with this engagement and she has a new CD, Mood Changes, coming out this month. The Grace Kelly Quintet is Grace Kelly, alto saxophone/vocals; Jason Palmer, trumpet; Doug Johnson, piano; Evan Gregor, bass and Jordan Perlson, drums.

When Julian Lage emerged on the music scene 13 years ago, the young San Francisco Bay Area-based musician was not only deemed a guitar-playing prodigy, but he was also offered record deals on numerous occasions. Playing a unique style that melded blues, classical, folk and jazz influences, Lage will release his new CD, Sounding Point on the Emarcy label on March 24. Julian Lage Group is Julian Lage, guitar; Tupac Mantilla, percussion; Aristides Rivas, cello; Ben Roseth, alto and soprano saxophones and Jorge Roeder, bass.

The Gino Sitson 4 [see description from main stage, above]

Invisible Cinema, the striking Blue Note Records debut by Aaron Parks was released August 19, 2008 and critics have been raving. The album finds the 24-year old pianist and composer who was featured in the September issue of JazzTimes as a “New Visionary,” exploring the common ground between his influences: from modern progressive jazz to indie rock and hip-hop. Parks represents a new generation of jazz musicians, as is evidenced by the fact that he cites bands from Radiohead to Blonde Redhead among his major influences alongside Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, and Terence Blanchard. Aaron Parks Trio is: Aaron Parks, piano; Ben Street, bass; Ted Poor, drums.

Ralph Alessi & This Against That: Since 1991, trumpeter/composer/educator Ralph Alessi has been an active member of the New York jazz and improvised music scene as both sideman and leader. Called “…a highly-in-demand, adventurous virtuoso who can handle just about anything” by L.A. Weekly, Alessi has performed and recorded with the likes of Steve Coleman, Uri Caine, Don Byron, Ravi Coltrane, Sam Rivers, Drew Gress, Fred Hersch and many other of the great innovators in improvised music. This Against That is Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Mark Ferber on drums, Matt Mitchell on piano and John Hebert on bass.
Tickets to Freihofer’s Jazz Festival will be available on line at
beginning April 1st at 10 a.m.

Saturday, June 27 tickets are priced at $62.50 [adult amphitheater], $52.00 [children under 12 amphitheater],$41.50 [lawn] and $5.00 [lawn for children under 12]. Sunday, June 28 tickets are priced at $56.00 [adult amphitheater], $49.00 [children under 12 amphitheater], $41.50 [lawn] and $5.00 [lawn for children under 12]. Two-Day jazz passes purchased prior to May 10 are priced at $110.00 [adult amphitheater], $92.50 [children under 12 amphitheater], $72.00 [lawn] and $10.00 [lawn for children under 12]. Children 2 years and younger are admitted free.
Ticket Order Forms for the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival are also available on SPAC’s website at or by contacting SPAC at 518-584-9330. In addition, tickets will be available for via phone charge at 518-584-9330, on line at and in-person at SPAC’s Box Office beginning Sunday, May 10 at noon.

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