Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Fest Always Features Some of the Best

At 35 years old, Festival retains its quality

The 35th annual Freihofer's Jazz Festival is always a gas. It's had nearly every major jazz player appear since 1978 and it has seen plenty of very young and then-unknown people gain some notoriety here in upstate New York and go on to great things.

The picnic/party is well know. That's not to say noisy and rocky. laid back. Relaxing as all hell. Family. Friends meet old friends. Meet new friends.

And high-quality music is always there. This year has the potential to stack very high.
On Saturday, the great bassist -- great musician -- Christian McBride is there. The great, great ensemble The Mingus Big band comes upstate. Must see stuff. Esperanza Spalding... her quick rise toward the top of the music world is well deserved not hype. She's a fine bassist, a singer whose talent is growing. And she has s great presence; surrounds herself with great musicians. Jeremy Pelt, one of the finer trumpet players brings his band in. Michel Camilo, a virtuoso pianist is there.

[Pictures: Top, Roberta Gambarini at the gazebo stage in 2001. Bottom: Hilary Kole at the same stage in 2011. © R.J. DeLuke]

This is all Saturday! And add young very fine players like Mario Abney on trumpet and Haily Niswanger on sax. Singer Catherine Russell is also an on-the-rise vocalist with a strong soulful voice. Shee-it. For fans of less-dense jazz (that was diplomatic) ... There's Chris Botti and Maceo Parker.

Sunday features more greats. The trio of Oz showcases the stunning drumming of Omar Hakeem and the piano fo Rachel Z. They mesh so well and they're exciting. Hiromi is another piano virtuoso of the highest order and she's a delight to watch. The Yellowjackets will please fusion fans and it will be worth checking out that the band now includes Felix Pastorious on bass--son of icon Jaco Pastorious. Their sax player, Bob Mintzer, says he's great and could even go beyond his dad in what he will one day accomplish. Yikes. And you've never seen the harp ... string harp like the angles play, not blues harp ... played like Edmar Castenada plays it. Sounds like three guitarists at the same time. hip vocalist Sachal Vasandani is always a pleasure and the big band duties fall to Arturo O'Farrill's Latin Jazz Orchestra. They can blow the roof off the place.

Toss in the bluesy rock of Brian Mitchell and you've got a fine, fine day.

Then out comes Diana Krall, who needs no hype. And Trombone Shorty who just might have everyone in Saratoga Springs dancing with his high-energy show that is entertainment, funk, fun, New Orleans all mixed. And fine musicianship as well.

People can walk into the festival and enjoy the great lawn party. So it's never to late to say "Let's Go."

Just get there.

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