By Thomas Joseph
Get ready jazz lovers! Next month, the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned and longest-running jazz festivals in North America, marks its 40th anniversary. A jewel in Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s summer season, the two-day, two-stage festival is beloved by audiences for its dynamic line-up of international jazz talent and its spectacular setting amid the towering pines, hiking trails and mineral springs of the idyllic Saratoga Spa State Park. This year’s festival is Saturday, June 24th, and Sunday, June 25th; music begins at noon each day and continues into the evening.
The milestone 2017 festival features an extraordinary lineup of musicians, ranging from emerging artists making their festival debuts, to the return of two legendary musicians who performed at the inaugural 1978 festival, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Luc-Ponty. Headlining the weekend are Chaka Khan, “The Queen of Funk,” and the Gipsy Kings, who bring their irresistible rhythms to the festival for the first time. Also, three boundary-breaking young musicians from the United Kingdom—Jacob Collier, Jack Broadbent, and Shabaka Hutchings—will showcase their innovative approaches to jazz performance. Also, Jazz 100, led by Danilo Pérez, will pay homage to iconic musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, and Thelonious Monk in celebration of the 100th anniversary of their shared birth year.
The festival originally titled the Newport Jazz Festival – Saratoga, was founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein, the creator of the renowned 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.” Today, the festival is produced by Wein protégé Danny Melnick, president of Absolutely Live Productions.
For more information on this year’s Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, visit spac.com. Tickets to the festival start at $65 for adults; children 15 and under are admitted free to the lawn. New this year is a $20 jazz ticket for students and children over 15.