Jazz Greats Past and Present Highlight Festival History
A resolution commemorating the 35th Anniversary of the legendary Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival and proclaiming June as “Jazz Month” was adopted by the New York State Senate today. Senator Roy McDonald (43rd S.D.), who represents Saratoga County, was the lead sponsor of the measure. Present for the occasion were Marcia White, SPAC’s President & Executive Director, SPAC Board Member Don McCormack, festival producer Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment, and William Smith, Director of Sales for Freihofer’s, the title sponsor of the festival.
“The success and continuing legacy of the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival represents one of the richest chapters in SPAC’s history. Since its founding in 1978, this world-class musical event has showcased legends, superstars and rising stars for more than half a million enthusiastic fans,” said Marcia J. White, SPAC’s President & Executive Director. “Two days of incredible jazz paired with a sublime State Park setting of rolling lawns and tall pines has proven to be a winning formula. While numerous music festivals have come and gone over the years, ours is still going strong at 35.
“My thanks go out to Senator McDonald and his colleagues for this extraordinary acknowledgement of the festival and its 35-year milestone,” said White.
The festival, originally titled the “Newport Jazz Festival – Saratoga,” was founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein, the creator of the celebrated Newport Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and several other nationally recognized music events. In his 2002 memoir, Myself Among Others: A Life in Music, Wein credits his decision to start the Saratoga festival as “one of the smartest moves I ever made.” In the book, Wein notes that the festival was a huge success right from the start, and “most importantly, it captured the spirit of old Newport.”
Artists who performed in the festival’s inaugural year include Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and Chick Corea. In the ensuing years, dozens of other jazz greats graced the festival’s main Amphitheatre stage, including Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Wayne Shorter, Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Pat Metheny, David Sanborn, Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval, Diana Krall and Chris Botti, among others.
The resolution also recognized the role of the festival’s title sponsor, Freihofer’s Baking Company, citing the company’s “partnership and support, which has enabled SPAC to consistently book and present the greatest jazz artists and ensembles in the world.” Freihofer’s has been the title sponsor of the festival since 1998.
Freihofer’s Director of Marketing John Marcoux lauded the resolution, stating, “we are tremendously proud of our role as the longstanding sponsor of this iconic event, a partnership that recognizes the roots of the Freihofer brand as well as a broader commitment to investing in the quality of life of our communities.”
Current festival producer Danny Melnick, a protégé of George Wein and the president of Absolutely Live Entertainment, noted, “Throughout all of these years, the two things that have consistently remained are high quality music and the audience’s dedication and enthusiasm. This year’s festival has been programmed to celebrate these two things.”
The 35th festival at SPAC, June 30 and July 1, will feature a star-studded lineup of more than 20 acclaimed artists and ensembles on two stages. Headliners include Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Esperanza Spalding, the Hiromi Trio Project, the Yellowjackets, and Maceo Parker.
A special feature of this year’s festival will be the “Encore Series at the Gazebo,” a lineup of the most popular, most requested young artists ever to appear on the festival’s Gazebo stage. The returning favorites include the Jeremy Pelt Quintet, Sachal Vasandani, Edmar Castaneda, Mario Abney, Catherine Russell and the Trio of Oz featuring Omar Hakim & Rachel Z, among others.
In addition to performances on SPAC’s Amphitheatre and Gazebo stages, the festival features a fine arts and crafts fair, CD signings by artists, a full-service bar in the Hall of Springs, southern style barbeque and other food vendors, and a children’s craft area. Guests may also bring in their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas. Parking for the event is free.
“As it’s been for 35 years, this festival is still all about ‘the hang’ – that fabulous vibe produced by the combination of amazing live music, dedicated fans and a laid-back atmosphere. That experience truly sets our festival apart and keeps people coming back year after year,” said White. “It’s the joy of summer at its very best.”
Tickets for the jazz festival start at just $55 for the lawn; kids 12 and under are free.
Visit spac.org for tickets, schedule and artist information.
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