SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The 38th Annual Freihofer’s Jazz Fest at Saratoga Performing Arts Center features an eclectic lineup that spans far outside the world of contemporary jazz, and organizers wouldn’t have it any other way.
On June 27 and 28, two stages will feature 24 acts that Danny Melnick, president of Absolutely Live Entertainment which puts on the festival, said is one of the most diverse in the festival’s history.
“There’s a bit of everything,” he said. “Rather than making a lineup and saying, ‘this is what jazz is,’ we thought of a list of artists that go throughout the genre and beyond. I am into a lot of types of music, and I love that we have jazz, Latin, reggae, big band, rhythm and blues, gypsy.”
Saturday’s headliner of the Amphitheater Stage is Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, a funk and soul group that has been around since the 1970s. Maze last played Jazz Fest in 1992. The group has a lot of selling power, as they are playing the Hampton Jazz Fest the following weekend, before being one of the headliners of Essence Fest down in Louisiana.
“They are one of the most successful soul R and B bands ever,” Melnick said. “They don’t get up here very often, but they’re a fun and phenomenal group that shouldn’t be missed.”
Also part of the main stage on Saturday is Cassandra Wilson, who will be celebrating the music of Billie Holiday, the Al Di Meola Electric Band, Christian McBride Big Band, Pedrito Martinez Group, Monty Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express and Theo Croker, who will also perform on the Gazebo Stage.
At the Gazebo Stage features Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein and Joe Farnsworth, Dutchess featuring Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou, Steve Wilson Wilsonian’s Grian featuring Orrin Evans, Ugonna Okegwo and Bill Stewart and Omer Avital Quintet.
“Dutchess is an all-female vocal group, and they’re incredible,” Melnick added. “They are a talented three-part harmony and the cool thing is that they’re not cheesy at all. They’re true to the art form.”
The main stage on Sunday features Sheila E., Erykah Badu, Snarky Puppy, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Heads of State, Django Festival All-Stars and Etienne Charles.
If you only see one band all weekend, this writer will recommend Snarky Puppy, a funk fusion outfit that will have you dancing from start to finish. They are so diverse that they play jam band festivals, rock festivals and others.
“They have a No. 1-album and are a very talented group,” Melnick said. They are touring all over, and are playing the Newport Jazz Festival. They’re quite relevant.”
The Gazebo Stage on Sunday features Sonny Knight and the Lakers, Etienne Charles, Benny Green Trio, Kellylee Evans and the Yosvany Quartet.
Melnick said that there’s no other place that Jazz Fest should be.
“It was voted the best outdoor venue in the country by USA Today,” he said. “It’s in its 38th year and people come from all over to chill out for a weekend and have a good time with the music. We try to throw a good party and let people have a great time.”