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Friday, 13 March 2015 12:13

The Real People Behind Homelessness

Shelters of Saratoga Gala’s Exhibit Shows the Humanity of Struggle, Hope and Success

SARATOGA SPRINGS – For it’s fifth annual gala, Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) will be adding an extra, dramatic dimension – a showcase of the individuals impacted by homelessness through a series of intimate portraits and their stories that go beyond the stereotypes – and are the most powerful reasons why you should consider attending.


The gala is next Thursday, Mar. 19 from 6-9 p.m. at Longfellows Restaurant. Admission is $100; visit sheltersofsaratoga.com/events/shelters-of-saratoga-gala-2015 for more information and reservations. At the event there will be a series of 60 live and silent auction items available, a cocktail reception and live music by Jeff Brisbin. 


But it is the people themselves – people whose lives have been positively impacted by the work of the shelter, and their stories, that will be front and center for gala attendees. Included are a series of powerful images from the lens of Mark McCarty showing SOS clients and houseguests in a way that cuts through the stereotypes and allow you to view the full spectrum of humanity of the people who have been helped by SOS. 


And stories. “I became homeless when I lost my home due to foreclosure,” says Stanley Peters, SOS houseguest. “Living in a motel used what little money I had and there was no one that I could stay with locally. A friend suggested that I call SOS.” 


“People who are homeless are stereotyped as panhandlers bumming spare change or pushing around a shopping cart filled with everything they own,” says Peters. “That’s not who I am. I’m married, have children and two jobs. I like art, reading, sculpting and metalwork. When I leave SOS, I hope to have a place to bring my children to visit me that I can proudly say is mine.”


In 2014, SOS helped over 400 men and women through their sheltering program and had over 1,500 face-to-face contacts through their Mobile Outreach unit with youth, adults and families.


Real people receiving real help. Like Hial Hall, another SOS houseguest. 


“I almost didn’t go to SOS because of the way that homeless shelters are portrayed. However, I have found this to be an atmosphere that’s more like a family. We help one another get back on track. I’ve had nothing but good fortune since coming here.”


Hall has been sober since July 2008 and noted that his other accomplishments include finding and maintaining work and accepting staff’s help to find the resources that have gotten him back on his feet. Hall currently works two jobs and has recently moved into one of SOS’ affordable housing apartments.


When asked to what he attributes his success, Hall stated, “You can’t stay in the past, you have to keep looking forward.”


The Honorary Committee Chair for the Gala is Laura Chodos. Title sponsors for the event include Vince, Patty, Ron and Michele Riggi and Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Saratoga TODAY Publisher Chad Beatty will oversee the live auction, with items available such as Saratoga Race Course Track Box seats, VIP tickets to Electric City Couture Fashion Show and after-party, tickets to Les Miserables on Broadway and many other items. 


“I am very pleased to celebrate the good work of Shelters of Saratoga and the support we provide to those who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in our community,” says Michael Finocchi, SOS executive director.


For more information, visit sheltersofsaratoga.org

SARATOGA SPRINGS —For the entire 2015 harness racing season, “The Foal Project” gallery show is on display at Fortunes, Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s trackside restaurant. This nationally renowned gallery focuses on the intimate moments of connection between a mare and her foal.


Originating in 2010, “The Foal Project” was started by photographer Lisa Miller with the goal to raise awareness and funding for equine assisted therapies. Miller’s work has been recognized on ESPN.com and has been featured across the country in venues including the prestigious Cross Gate Gallery in Lexington, KY and the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in Aiken, SC.  


All of the pieces are numbered, signed and printed on large metal. Guests will be able to purchase these signed, numbered and limited edition prints, with 100 percent of the sale proceeds going to the Foal Project Donor Advised Fund, which is used to fill grant requests made by qualified 501(c)3 equine assisted therapy centers.


“The opportunity for ‘The Foal Project’ to be featured in Fortunes is truly an honor,” said Lisa Miller. “It’s very exciting to create more awareness for the project within the Saratoga community, and Fortunes is the ideal venue to accomplish that.”



For reservations at Fortunes, call (518) 581-5790. For more information on “The Foal Project,” visit FoalProject.org.

Thursday, 12 March 2015 14:33

In the Homestretch

Public Invited to Help Complete Spirit of Life’s Restoration 

SARATOGA SPRINGS In less than four months, the iconic Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial in Congress Park will celebrate its 100th birthday. The public is invited to an official rededication ceremony on June 26, as part of the city’s Centennial activities. This will be the culmination of years of effort to restore a nationally significant work of public art. In order to assure that the restoration will be completed by that date, an appeal to the community at large has been issued.


This month the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation has asked the public for help to raise the remaining amount needed to complete the restoration of the unofficial symbol of Saratoga Springs. Thanks to the widespread support to date from many local individuals, businesses and foundations along with the Foundation’s work and the City’s commitment, less than 10 percent of the project’s total cost of $660,000 remains to be raised.   


Honorary Co-Chairs of the campaign, Barbara L. Glaser and Kathleen Fyfe, are now appealing to area residents and businesses to support this worthy project and ensure that the Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial is preserved for the next hundred years. “As of yesterday, we have only $46,000 remaining.” Glaser said. “I’m particularly excited to work on this campaign with Kathleen, because we represent two generations and she has boundless energy.” 


Ms. Glaser said that a social media campaign will be launched soon, but donations can be accepted now on the web, by mail and phone (see details at the end of this story.) For those who are able to donate $500 or more, they will receive a high-quality print of a painting of the Spirit of Life by local artist Kate Edwards. But any amount is welcome. 


In 2011, the Preservation Foundation took initial steps to restore the Memorial. In anticipation of marking both the Memorial’s and the City’s centennial, on-site work began last spring with the removal of decaying 100-year-old white pines and work to restore the masonry started this past summer. In addition, this spring conservation of the bronze Spirit of Life sculpture will take place and the restoration of the wide pathways, plantings, benches and lighting will be completed. 


“Some to the reasons why I particularly love this project is that it combines open space, public art and preservation,” Glaser said. “Plus the fact that it’s free, not to mention the site of many important family milestones for generations.”  


In 1913, Katrina Trask, philanthropist, founder of artist colony Yaddo and Saratoga resident, and Spencer Trask’s business partner George Foster Peabody, commissioned the Memorial to honor her late husband Spencer Trask. The Memorial is the product of the artistic collaboration of noted American sculptor Daniel Chester French, architect Henry Bacon, and landscape architect Charles Leavitt, Jr.  


French and Bacon are best known for their collaboration on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  French created the bronze Spirit of Life sculpture; Bacon designed the masonry; and Leavitt, who was responsible for significant changes to the Saratoga Racecourse at the turn of the century, planned the landscape setting. The Memorial was unveiled and gifted to the City of Saratoga Springs on June 26, 1915. 


Over the past century, countless residents and visitors have enjoyed this National Historic Landmark. Also, the image of the Spirit of Life has been used numerous times for a variety of logos, including most recently the City of Saratoga Springs’ official Centennial Celebration logo. 


In a town known for its civic involvement and pride, this is a great chance for everyone to participate in securing a bit of local history’s future. 


Should fundraising efforts exceed the project’s final cost, excess funds will be placed in a restricted endowment fund dedicated to the Memorial’s maintenance and preservation.   


Donations are needed as soon as possible to complete the restoration by June 26. They can be made online at spiritofliferestoration.org; by check made payable to Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and mailed to 112 Spring Street, Suite 203, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; or by credit card over the phone: (518) 587-5030.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — ­ The 38th annual Freihofer¹s Saratoga Jazz Festival, one of the world¹s longest-running major jazz events, will be held on Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). This year¹s festival will feature Erykah Badu, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Cassandra Wilson celebrates Billie Holiday, Sheila E., Al Di Meola Electric Band, Snarky Puppy, Christian McBride Big Band, Monty Alexander¹s Harlem-Kingston Express, The Pedrito Martinez Group, Benny Green Trio, Heads of State, Django Festival All-Stars, Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Theo Croker, and Etienne Charles, among others. Tickets for the festival will be available online beginning March 3 for SPAC¹s highest level members and March 24 for the general public. Tickets and information are available online at spac.org.


Located in Saratoga Springs, New York at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the festival was founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein and has hosted a who¹s who of jazz greats over the years including Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, B.B. King, Wayne Shorter and Ray Charles. With an inside seating capacity of 5,200, lawn seating of 20,000, world class jazz talent performing on two stages, and an idyllic State Park setting located just three hours driving time from either Boston or New York City, the festival draws thousands of fans from across the Northeast and throughout North America.


“At this year¹s festival we bring our audiences a remarkable lineup‹a blend of familiar favorites and debut artists, all musicians of the greatest national and international acclaim,² said Marcia White, President and Executive Director of SPAC. “For two days, as an annual kick-off to the festivities of summer, our guests make the SPAC grounds their home. They come to see friends they may only connect with once a year at our festival, to hear great music and to create lifelong memories. Each year, I personally look forward to seeing the familiar faces of generations of Jazz Fest fans. I couldn¹t be more proud of the experience that our guests will share this June as they listen to, and engage with, our incredible musicians.”


“The prestige of the Saratoga Jazz Festival allows us to present some of the best artists on the scene today,” said Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment, and co-producer of the festival. “Both legends and emerging artists look forward to playing in Saratoga because of the intimacy of the venue, the loyalty of the fans, and the beauty of the SPAC grounds.”


“On behalf of SPAC and our community I would like to thank Freihofer¹s for their unmatched support of our Jazz Festival,” White said. “Their generous involvement as our title sponsor allows us to bring the best artists in jazz to Saratoga for fans to enjoy.”


While two days and two stages of live, world-class jazz is the centerpiece of the weekend, fans can also enjoy a host of amenities including 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, all presented by Stella Artois. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as blankets, tents and lawn umbrellas. Parking for the event is free. More information about what to bring to the Jazz Festival can be found online at spac.org.


Stella Artois returns to the festival this year as the lead sponsor of the lawn experience (“the hang”). The upscale Belgian beer company is no stranger to sponsoring high-profile arts and cultural events; they¹ve been notably involved with the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Singapore Jazz Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival.


“SPAC¹s postcard-perfect setting in the majestic Saratoga Spa State Park creates the perfect atmosphere to sit back and enjoy this world-class line-up you won¹t find anywhere else,” reflects White. “There is truly no better way to welcome in the summer.”



2015 Freihofer¹s Saratoga Jazz Festival Artists





Maze featuring Frankie Beverly Venerated for honest, raw soul music, Maze has delighted music lovers world wide for over 40 years. SPAC welcomes the musicians of Maze, whose emotionally vibrant musicality and brilliantly sensitive artistry has allowed them to continue to headline at top concert venues across the globe. There are no gimmicks or stage tricks in their shows, just Beverly with his smooth, soulful vocals supported by the tight Maze band. At Saratoga Jazz Fest, Maze will play from their large catalog of classic hits, including “Happy Feelings,” “Lady of Magic,” “While I Am Alone,” and “Workin’ Together.”


Cassandra Wilson celebrates Billie Holiday Cassandra Wilson returns to SPAC for her first appearance in a decade as she celebrates Billie Holiday's 100th Birthday. Wilson will perform repertoire from her upcoming album to be released on Holiday¹s centennial, commemorating Holiday's prestigious career. Named America's Best Singer by Time Magazine, she has been described as "Soulful, sensual and lyrical, she's carrying on the tradition of great jazz vocalists." A two-time GRAMMY Award winning artist and DownBeat Magazine's “Jazz Vocalist of the Year” for three consecutive years, Wilson is considered by many to be the most talented jazz singer alive today.


Al Di Meola Electric Band This virtuoso jazz guitarist makes his Saratoga return with his newly-formed Electric Band, performing music from his landmark albums, Elegant Gypsy, Casino, Electric Rendevous and others for the first time in 35 years. His fascination with complex rhythmic syncopation, combined with provocative lyrical melodies and sophisticated harmony, has made him a leader of jazz fusion since the 1970¹s. At SPAC, Di Meola is poised to move audiences with his dizzying speed and passionate playing.


Christian McBride Big Band A Saratoga favorite, McBride returns for his fifth Jazz Festival appearance and his third as a leader. Bassist extraordinaire, composer, arranger, educator, curator and administrator, McBride has been one of the most important and influential figures in the jazz world for 20 years. The New York Times hailed McBride¹s artistry, calling “the deep, dark-maple tone that he elicits from an upright bass is one of jazz¹s forthright pleasures.” This performance marks the debut of his heralded Big Band on the SPAC stage.


Pedrito Martinez Group 2015 GRAMMY nominee Pedrito Martinez is a Cuban-born vocalist and percussionist, master of Afro-Cuban folkloric music, and the world¹s first-call rumbero. His infectious charisma will light up SPAC¹s main stage as he wows audiences with his athletic musicality. Martinez is the winner of the Thelonious Monk Award for Afro-Latin Hand Percussion in 2000; the 2014 Sphinx Metal of Excellence; the 2014 Jazz Journalist Association “Percussionist of the Year;” the 2014 Modern Drummer Readers Poll #1 “Percussionist of the Year;” and one of DownBeat Magazine¹s “80 Coolest Things in Jazz Today.” This performance will be the Group¹s third festival appearance.


Monty Alexander¹s Harlem-Kingston Express In a career spanning five decades, pianist Monty Alexander has built a reputation bridging the worlds of American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica. Alexander returns to SPAC for the first time since 1996, this time with his Harlem-Kingston Express band, to perform in support of their most recent album, Harlem-Kingston Express: Live! The album was nominated for a 2012 GRAMMY Award and saw number one ratings on both jazz and world-music charts simultaneously. Alexander also continues his solo career as a pianist. Notably, American singer and icon Tony Bennett personally invited Alexander to record as the featured pianist on his 2008 Christmas album, A Swinging Christmas, with the Count Basie Orchestra. In 2012, Alexander received the Caribbean American Heritage Luminary Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington, D.C.


Theo Croker Noted trumpet player and bandleader Theo Croker, grandson of jazz legend Doc Cheatham and known by his fans as “the AfroPhysicist,” will bring his internationally celebrated “Miles-ian timbre” (JazzTimes) to his SPAC debut. Croker will play selections from his critically acclaimed 2014 album, The AfroPhysicist. His musical training has taken him from Jacksonville, Florida to Oberlin, Ohio to Shanghai, China to New York City, allowing him to develop his unique style that incorporates elements of salsa, rock, R&B, blues, and hip-hop. Donald Byrd said of Croker, “I would place Theo in a class of musicians who will redirect the flow, change and alter the current of today¹s New Jazz.”





Steve Wilson Wilsonian¹s Grain featuring Orrin Evans, Ugonna Okegwo & Bill Stewart Steve Wilson leads an exciting collaboration of some of the most highly regarded artists in today¹s jazz landscape. His quartet Wilsonian's Grain, headliners at the prestigious Detroit Jazz Festival in 2011, has been featured on NPR live from the Kennedy Center and the Village Vanguard in New York City. Wilson had been recognized by NPR as “a complete musician, technically and imaginatively. A musician of honesty within the vast field of mainstream post-bop, but never constrained by its parameters.” The quartet will play in support of their upcoming album Steve Wilson & Wilsonian's Grain Live in New York: The Vanguard Sessions, to be released on March 24, 2015 by Random Act Records.


Theo Croker(see above‹Saturday Main Stage)


Duchess featuring Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner & Melissa Stylianou A new vocal trio in the great tradition of the Boswell Sisters, Duchess has grown quickly as one of the up and coming jazz ensembles of the greater New York City region. Showcasing their signature girl-on-girl harmonies, the ladies of Duchess will perform beloved jazz classics from their recently released album Duchess, featuring hits by jazz favorites ranging from Gershwin to Johnny Mercer. The three women each have considerable individual followings: Cervini and Stylianou have both been included in DownBeat Magazine¹s Critics’ Poll category ‘Rising-Star Vocalist,’ and Gardner was the female vocalist and Frank Sinatra¹s virtual duet partner in Twyla Tharp¹s Come Fly Away. As a trio, these female powerhouses and their tight harmonies have taken New York by storm.


Omer Avital Quartet Making his SPAC debut,Omer Avital is a composer, virtuosic bassist, oud player, and leader of the world-music genre. He has been hailed by the LA Times as “a pioneer in combining jazz with myriad world-music elements.” In 2008, Avital was awarded the Prime Minister¹s Award, the most prestigious distinction for artists in Israel. His work seeks to create a sound that is highly individual, yet instantly recognizable - the essence of Israel with all its contradictions and beauty.The New York Times has commented, “Mr. Avital and his group are producing some of the most original music being heard in New York.”


Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein & Joe Farnsworth When Mike LeDonne plays the Hammond B3 organ, the instrument sings with the raw soul of the human voice. LeDonne and his Groover Quartet have been distinguished by The New York Times as a “fixture” of the New York jazz scene. Making their SPAC debut, the Quartet promises to get audiences grooving to the beat as they play jazz, swing, and soul classics from their legendary Tuesday night gig at the famous New York jazz club, Smoke.





Erykah Badu Erykah Badu¹s lengthy career has included pioneering work in establishing neo-soul in the modern age, drawing comparisons to Billie Holiday for her smooth, passionate vocals. Winner of four GRAMMY Awards and nominated for 15 others, Ms. Badu¹s work includes five widely-praised studio albums and a live recording. Her acting career includes a role in the critically-acclaimed film The Cider House Rules, for which she garnered a Screen Actors Guild nomination and a 2000 Black Reel Award. As a member of neo-soul and hip-hop collective Soulquarians she worked with artists including Questlove, Common, and Mos Def; other collaborations to which she has lent her voice include projects with Macy Gray, Sérgio Mendes and will.i.am, The Roots, Jill Scott, Wu-Tang Clan, Rick Ross, and Tyler the Creator. In her SPAC debut, Erykah Badu will show off her impressive vocal abilities on hits from throughout her nearly two-decade career.


Sheila E. This world-class drummer and percussionist¹s credits read like chapters in a music history book: Ringo Starr, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke. Sheila E. is the GRAMMY Award-nominated singer/songwriter behind the seminal hits “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre.” She was the first female music director for a late night talk show, “The Magic Hour” with Magic Johnson, and received an Emmy nomination as music director for “Fiesta Latina ­ A Performance at The White House.” Sheila E. was recently among the roster of stars chosen to perform at the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors whose honorees included artists Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel and Carlos Santana. Making her SPAC debut, Sheila E. will play favorites from her 2014 autobiographical album, Icon, as well as her previous collaborations with some of the world¹s most beloved musicians.


Snarky Puppy The 2014 GRAMMY Award winners have gone from a best-kept secret to the standard-bearers for a new movement in jazz. The band has earned high praise from critical stalwarts like the BBC, Village Voice, Guardian, and Boston Herald, and has performed at some of the best venues and festivals in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America. Their 2014 album, We Like It Here debuted at number one on the iTunes Jazz charts across the world and won the “Best New Artist” and “Best Electric/Jazz-Rock/Contemporary Group/Artist” categories in JazzTimes Magazine¹s annual readers¹ poll. At their SPAC debut, Snarky Puppy will play selections from their award winning catalog, as well as material from the second volume of their GRAMMY award winning Family Dinner series.


Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters‹An Encore PresentationAppearing at the festival in 2014 for the first time since 1997, guitarist Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters will return to SPAC in 2015 due to massive audience feedback from the group¹s appearance last year. Earl is considered a New England blues guitar legend‹a staple on the local blues circuit for years, having received praise from blues masters such as B.B. King and Muddy Waters.


Heads of State featuring Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Buster Williams & Al Foster The Saratoga Jazz Festival welcomes Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Buster Williams, and Al Foster‹four of the greatest jazz musicians working today. Together, they are an unforgettable, cooperative quartet currently preparing for their first recording as a group for Smoke Sessions Records. Jazziz has called Gary Bartz a “remarkable saxophonist who can easily recall the more lyrical moments of John Coltrane or the R&B stylings of players like Hank Crawford”; Larry Willis is “the greatest pianist you¹ve never heard of” according to TimeOut NY; The New Yorker names Buster Williams “a paragon of post-bop bass playing”; and TimeOut NY also states that Al Foster¹s “brilliant timekeeping encompasses the best of the old and new school.”


Django Festival All-Stars Making their SPAC debut, this “hot-swing” quintet will bring the legacy of the brilliant gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt to Saratoga. Their performance will celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the Django Reinhardt NY Festival at famed New York City jazz club Birdland. The All-Stars include internationally celebrated French jazz musicians Samsom Schmitt, Pierre Blanchard and Ludovic Beier. The Wall Street Journal praises the All-Stars as "The Best Jazz Show In Town... Imagine a stage filled with contemporary Django Reinhardt descendants and you'll get a sense that the collective talent pool on the bandstand is larger than the Arc de Triomphe!"


Etienne Charles Making his festival debut, Charles is a band leader, recording artist, composer, arranger, and Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University. Still only in his 20s, he has recorded three impressive and well-received albums that showcase his own Caribbean-roots informed jazz style. His most recent album, Creole Soul, is a captivating journey of new jazz expression. The New York Times calls Charles "one of [jazz's] more ambitious soloists and composers," JazzTimes applauds him as a "daring improviser" and DownBeat Magazine celebrates his tone as "melodically captivating" and "rhythmically agile" making his music "immediately pleasing."





Benny Green Trio with David Wong & Rodney Green The Los Angeles Times wrote of Green, “When you say he's got it all, you've said it all: That is the most concise summation of the genius of pianist Benny Green.” Pianist and composer Green¹s rich, tasteful swinging; ambidextrous musicality driven with a powerful left hand; and uniquely creative improvisations make him one of jazz¹s most celebrated pianists. Once a student of Art Blakey, Green has cultivated 20 years of experience as a leader and performer alongside some of jazz¹s best known names‹Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and Ray Brown.


Etienne Charles(see above‹Sunday Main Stage)


Kellylee Evans JazzTimes described this Canadian sensation as “a master of fresh interpretation.” Evans made her debut onto the American music scene with her album, I Remember When, released in July 2014 on the Montéma Music label. Evans was the second place winner of the 2004 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, which she credits for launching her career from singing in the shower to singing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. At her Saratoga Jazz Fest debut, Evans may perform her fresh, personalized adaptations of hip-hop songs along with classic jazz and soul.


Yosvany Terry Quartet featuring Osmany Paredes, Yunior Terry and Obed Calvaire DownBeat Magazine describes the quartet as “lyrical, complex and caffeinated, it combines the instrumentation and rules of classic hard-bop with the rhythmic savvy of Afro-Cuban music.” Terry¹s music, although formally complex and technically intricate, continually maintains a smooth, organic sense of groove that keeps audiences swaying. The New York Times distinguished Terry as “among the bandleaders stretching the definitions of Afro-Cuban jazz.” His latest recording, New Throned King, earned a GRAMMY nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album,” and this will be his Saratoga Jazz Festival debut as a leader.


Sonny Knight & The Lakers Just returned from their 2014 World Tour, Sonny Knight and the Lakers will delight SPAC audiences with repertoire from their 2014 debut album, I¹m Still Here, covering a wide range of tempos and soul forms. Knight¹s exuberant, energetic vocals and cheerful charisma defy his 65 years of age and decade long absence from the music industry. NPR praises the band, newly formed after Knight¹s career detour serving in the military and working as a truck driver, stating, “The Secret Stash label got Sonny & The Lakers together. As you'll hear, that was a wise decision.”





Tickets to the festival go on sale March 24 at spac.org; box office and phone sales begin May 15.



Single Day, Adult

Single Day, Child (12 and under)

2-day pass Adult*

2-day pass Child*

Sections 1-7; Boxes





Sections 8-10; Front 11-12; 15; Front 16-17





Sections Rear 11-12; 13-14; Rear 16-17; 18-30











*2-day pass discounts expire May 1, 2015.









Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Erykah Badu

Cassandra Wilson celebrates Billie Holiday

Sheila E.

Al Di Meola Electric Band

Snarky Puppy

Christian McBride Big Band

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters ­ An Encore Presentation

Pedrito Martinez Group

Heads of State featuring Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Buster Williams & Al Foster

Monty Alexander¹s Harlem-Kingston Express

Django Festival All-Stars

Theo Croker

Etienne Charles



Steve Wilson Wilsonian¹s Grain featuring Orrin Evans, Ugonna Okegwo & Bill Stewart

Benny Green Trio with David Wong & Rodney Green

Theo Croker

Etienne Charles

Duchess featuring Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner & Melissa Stylianou

Kellylee Evans

Omer Avital Quartet

Yosvany Terry Quartet featuring Osmany Paredes, Yunior Terry & Obed Calvaire

Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet featuring Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein & Joe Farnsworth

Sonny Knight & The Lakers



Friday, 06 March 2015 13:41

Increased FUNding

Spa State Park to Receive $7M

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A statewide program to radically transform New York’s State Parks will have a positive impact locally. Under a plan called NY Parks 2020, $7 million dollars has been earmarked to Spa State Park for significant upgrades to many of its facilities.


The plan, which has allocated a total of $900 million in capital funding, was detailed in a Monday, Mar. 2 press conference at Spa State Park by state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. The plan recapped some of the improvements to state parks since 2011 with an eye towards continued future upgrades. 


At Spa State Park, some of these improvements are already visible, including a new entrance sign and a renovated façade at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). Yet, most of the major improvements will be forthcoming shortly. 


These upgrades include:

  •   At SPAC, a “green parking lot” with porous material and vegetation will be open this season, providing an  environmentally sustainable entrance
  •  A new picnic shelter and bathrooms at the Peerless Pool’s Polaris Pavilion
  •   Upgrades to the Victoria Pool
  •   Refurbishments of Roosevelt and Lincoln Bathhouses
  •   Rebuilding the Hathorn playground
  •   Construction of a classroom / environmental center near Geyser Creek, which is tentatively scheduled to be completed in 2016       
  •   Renovation of the Karista mineral spring
  •   General trail upgrades.

“SPAC is grateful for the Governor’s commitment to revitalize New York’s State Parks through the NY Parks 2020 Plan,” said SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia J. White. “Continued investment in Saratoga Spa State Park and all New York State Parks is essential because these cultural and natural landmarks contribute to our state as economic engines and important centers of community life. This investment will help us achieve our mission of enhancing the quality of life of the community we serve, and allow us to continue to bring world-class performing arts to our region in years to come.”


Regarding Moreau Lake State Park, Harvey expressed optimism that 763 acres of land surrounding the closed Mt. McGregor Prison facility will eventually get transferred to Moreau’s adjacent parkland. A timetable for actual development will have to await the land’s transfer from the state’s Corrections Department and the formulation of a master plan for the site. At this point, a priority for the Parks department is to work with Corrections to secure utilities for the Grant’s Cottage historic site, which is next to the prison, for the opening of its season in May. 


No funding for new projects at Moreau Lake was specifically named in the NY Parks 2020 report. But according to information provided by Dan Keefe, deputy public information officer at the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Department, Moreau Lake had previously received funding in the amount of $1,275,000 for resurfacing campground roads and the swimming beach parking area, as well as to rehabilitate the restroom area in 2012, and $100,000 to rehabilitate the beach bathhouse roof in 2013. Keefe said that future projects would be determined when the funding is approved in the state’s annual budget.


A significant element of the NY Parks 2020 plan is that funding has been placed in a pool in the capital budget, which eliminates the need for state parks to secure funding on an individual project basis. In 2015-16, $110 million has been put in the capital budget for state park projects, so it is conceivable that Moreau Lake might receive further project funding when the transfer of McGregor’s lands is completed. 


Overall, about $840 million of the $900 million in funding will come from state funds; $640 from the NY Works program for infrastructure improvements; $200 million from partnerships with state agencies such as the Department of Transportation. The balance will come from Federal dollars and private philanthropic and “friends” groups. 


The plan has a stated goal of completing many neglected infrastructure projects statewide, while providing for seven strategic priorities to position the state parks for the future:


• Transforming New York’s flagship State Parks (Spa State Park was specifically identified) 

• Promoting healthy, active outdoor recreation 

• Connecting people with parks

• Rejuvenating New York’s world-class park system 

• Preserving historic sites and cultural assets 

• Sustaining New York’s natural environment 

• Energizing local economies 


Since 2012, New York State has advanced 279 capital improvement projects at 109 parks and historic sites. The NY Parks 2020 plan allocates just over half (52 percent) of the $900 million in funding to infrastructure – much of which park patrons may not see. Yet at Spa State Park, the prospect is for many visible improvements from the $7 million earmarked will help to keep its place as one of New York State’s treasures. 


For more information, visit nysparks.com/publications/documents/NYParks2020.pdf

Friday, 27 February 2015 10:06

Former City Attorney Challenges Mathiesen

Sarah Burger to Vie for Public Safety Post


SARATOGA SPRINGS –The 2015 city election season heated up early with an announcement on Tuesday, Feb. 24 that Sarah J. Burger, former City Attorney, stating that she wanted to make Saratoga Springs a better place to live and do business, will seek the post of Commissioner of Public Safety. 


This announcement sets up a primary battle for the Democratic Party endorsement against two-time incumbent Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, who has indicated he will seek re-election this fall. 


In her announcement, Burger stressed her family history in the area, which dates back to the Revolutionary War, as well as her experience with labor / management negotiations and pledged to keep an open mind on issues while listening to the entire community in her decision making. While she did not get into specific campaign platform issues in this announcement, she did criticize the Public Safety department for “bad decisions that have led to legal challenges.” Later, she cited the recent attempt to create a district, generally around Caroline Street, outside of which 4 a.m. bar closings would not be permitted, as “discriminatory and ill-advised.” 


Burger declined comment on the city’s sale/exchange of parcels on the Eastern Ridge and the Collamer lot at 500 Broadway, stating that she was City Attorney at the time. 

Yet it would be hard to visualize a campaign in which this will not be a subject of contention as the election season goes forward, as this is one such subject under litigation.  


Currently a labor attorney at Cooper, Erving & Savage, LLP, with offices in Saratoga Springs, Burger was appointed by Mayor Joanne Yepsen to be City Attorney in January of 2014. She resigned from that post abruptly last September, citing a “fundamental disagreement” on how to handle the legal affairs at City Hall. 


Burger stated that she would be also seeking endorsements of other political parties as well. If elected, she would be the first female to hold the position of Commissioner of Public Safety in the 100-year history of Saratoga Springs. 


Burger was introduced to a gathering of her supporters at the Empire Room at Maestros at the Van Dam Restaurant by her long-time friend, Gary Dake, president of Stewart’s Shops, who stated that the conduct of city council business should not be based on ideology, but balance.  

Friday, 06 February 2015 10:37

Inhospitable Mandate

State Wage Board’s Proposed Increase Raises Concerns Locally

By Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY

SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Friday, Jan. 30, the New York State Wage Board, after several months of hearings, recommended that tipped workers’ minimum wage be raised from $5 to $7.50 per hour. This recommendation would affect all wait staff and bartenders at restaurants and other hospitality venues. The increase, if accepted by the Commissioner of Labor, would take effect on Dec. 31, 2015. The recommendation had the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said in a statement: “For far too long, wages for tipped workers in New York State have been too low.”


However, in Saratoga Springs, which has a large number of restaurants and bars per capita in comparison to other cities, it was no surprise that local restaurateurs expressed several areas of apprehension about the implications, for both patrons and workers, if the recommendation is adopted. 


“We’re very concerned,” stated Nancy Bambara, Vice President of DZ Restaurants, which has four establishments in Saratoga County. “I’d personally like to see where they (Wage Board) got their research.”


Bambara noted, “Most of our servers make a good living already. For us, a new requirement like this, on top of mandates like health care, makes it harder and harder to do business.” 


“People don’t realize that in order for us to be competitive, we need to be make sure we are pricing our menu properly. All our restaurants’ (Chianti Ristorante, Forno Bistro and Boca Bistro in Saratoga Springs; Pasta Pane in Clifton Park) margins are exceedingly small.” She added. 


Should the wage board recommendation be accepted, Bambara believes that it won’t be long until consumers feel an impact. 


“We’ll do what we can – aggressive marketing, for instance, to try and keep the customer’s coming in. But it’s hard to believe that, with this percentage increase, we can hold the line on prices forever.” 


Regarding worker staffing and hours being impacted as well, Bambara didn’t rule that out, and added. “We would have to look at everything, including the employees. We take pride in having things like staff awards and other creative incentives; we may not be able to retain these.”


Bambara also took the Wage Board to task for favoring a blanket increase to everyone statewide outside of New York City: “Our situation here has to be considered. We are in a resort area, but we operate year-round, not just at peak times, and try to keep as many on staff as we can.” 


Robert Lee is the long-time owner of The Wishing Well Restaurant and recently opened The Brook Tavern. Regarding the potential wage increase, he stated succinctly: 

“Ultimately, any new cost is passed on to the consumer.” 


And while Lee did not specifically speak to the potential impact on employee’s jobs and/or their hours, he did state, “Restaurants are not any different from other businesses that are always looking to increase their efficiency while continuing to deliver a great product.” 


While other restaurant owners declined formal comment, they were universal in expressing frustration, and in some cases, anger that the state was adding another burden to them. 


One who had no reluctance to speak out was John Baker, owner of Gaffney’s Restaurant since 1982. “Let’s say I’m not too happy.” Baker said.


“Most of our tipped workers are making a very good living, so I don’t think in our case this kind of percentage is justified. In my experience, most of our employees who take tipped jobs do so because of the income they can derive.” He said.


Also, he was concerned that raising the pay rate for one subset of employees was unfair. “What about dishwashers and line cooks? Don’t they deserve an increase?” 


Other restaurant owners also stated that the impact on non-tipped employees was barely taken into consideration by the Wage Board, even though these workers might bear the brunt of the impact should the increase go through.


While Baker said he would do all he could to keep employees and hours at current levels if the increase is adopted, he did state that, “all pricing will need to be examined.” 


He offered an international perspective, and felt it wasn’t one that people here would favor, “In other countries, Australia for instance, tipping is a non-factor. In that case, you have wait staff that makes $20-25 per hour, which impacts all your costs. Eventually the customer pays – in some cases twice what we pay here for the same menu item. I don’t think people here want to go that way.” Baker concluded.


Tim Holmes, Co-owner of BWP and The Wheatfields Restaurants in Saratoga Springs and Clifton Park, as well as the current President of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, recommended the comments of The New York Restaurant Association. Their comments mirror the concerns expressed by local restaurant owners. 


In a release, Melissa A. Fleischut, CEO and President of the Association, stated: “Increasing the cash wage will hit small businesses hardest, and hurt the backbone of the restaurant industry, back of the house workers. There’s only so much money a restaurant can spend on labor, increasing the wages, the people who earn the most in a restaurant, leaves the owner with fewer resources for back of the house staff.”


After the Wage Board recommendation, in a call for the state Labor Commissioner to reject the Board’s recommendation, Fleischut added:  “This decision will handcuff small businesses’ ability to create jobs, decrease the pay of non-tipped employees, and reduce hours for tipped employees. Nobody won today.”

Friday, 30 January 2015 08:25

A Life Well Lived

Anne Palamountain dies at 91

SARATOGA SPRINGS—Anne Tonnesen Palamountain, first lady of Skidmore College for 22 years during a period of dynamic change at Skidmore and in higher education nationally, died on Jan. 24 in Saratoga Hospital of complications from pneumonia. She was 91 years old. 


Mrs. Palamountain came to the college in 1965, accompanying her husband, Joseph C. Palamountain Jr., when he became the fourth president of Skidmore. Whether at the side of her husband, or through her own initiatives as a fundraiser and liaison to the community, she played a pivotal role in the life of the college and its hometown of Saratoga Springs.  


During the Palamountain presidency, 1965–87, Skidmore built an entirely new campus and moved there in stages from its eclectic mix of older downtown buildings, ushered in coeducation in 1971, and weathered student unrest in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The era was made all the more challenging by the college’s then-small endowment and severe financial strains. 


With Joe Palamountain at the helm, Skidmore’s student body doubled; the endowment grew, bringing a stronger financial footing; Skidmore chartered a chapter of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa; and the college launched the pioneering University Without Walls program, offering an alternate, nonresidential route to a bachelor’s degree. Joe Palamountain died in 1987, following his retirement from the College.


Mrs. Palamountain’s involvement in the life of Skidmore is a story in its own right. Her greatest passion at the college was building endowment for financial aid, which she saw as the most effective way to make a college education accessible to all students. In 1979 she spearheaded the launch of one of the college’s major fundraising events—the annual Palamountain Scholarship Benefit—now a highlight of Saratoga’s renowned summer scene. She presided over the event for 35 years, helping the Joseph C. and Anne T. Palamountain Scholarship Fund reach a total of $5.8 million.


An avid traveler, Mrs. Palamountain over the years attended Skidmore events across the country. She was named an honorary alumna of Skidmore’s class of 1973 and received an honorary doctorate from the college in 1997. In 1986 she received an alumni award for outstanding service to Skidmore and in 1987 received the college’s Denis B. Kemball-Cook Award from the board of trustees. She was a member of the advisory committee for the development of Skidmore’s Tang Teaching Museum, which opened its doors in 2000, and the museum’s Palamountain Gallery was named in her honor. In 2004, she was awarded Skidmore’s Lucy Scribner Medal, given for selfless service to others and a commitment to the community. 


Within the greater Saratoga Springs community, Mrs. Palamountain was a visible and active leader whose work was recognized by a wide range of organizations. In 1994 she received the President’s Award of the Hudson Mohawk Association of Colleges and Universities, and in 1999 she was presented with the Woman of the Year Award from Soroptimists International of Saratoga County. In 2001 she received the Kathryn Starbuck Award for community service and in 2003 was honored by the Saratoga Springs Rotary Education Foundation for her commitment to education and the community. 


Mrs. Palamountain was a recipient of the Liberty Bell Award of the Saratoga County Bar Association and was twice honored with resolutions of the New York State Assembly. She has served as board president of the Lake George Opera and as a board member for the artists’ retreat Yaddo and for WMHT public television. Over the years, she was affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the Saratoga Springs League of Women Voters, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Action Council, and the National Museum of Racing. She regularly attended events supporting charities and nonprofit organizations in the Saratoga Springs region.  


Fond of international travel, Mrs. Palamountain served as U.S. delegate to the Pan-Pacific South East Asia Women’s Association, attending meetings and conferences in various countries of South East Asia.


She attended White House State events during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations and in 1969 was a guest at New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s dinner honoring Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 astronauts.


Mrs. Palamountain’s first jobs were in the fashion industry, starting with the executive training squad of R.H. Macy’s in 1944. That same year she was named Miss New York City Subway and Miss R.H. Macy. She became a fashion buyer for Macy’s in New York City and Slattery’s in Boston. From 1948 to 1953 she was buyer for Bonwit Teller in Boston. 


Mrs. Palamountain is survived by two sons: Bruce K. Palamountain and Bromley C. Palamountain. 


A memorial service is scheduled on Wednesday, May 13, at the Arthur Zankel Music Center on the Skidmore campus. Details will be announced.


Memorial contributions may be made to the Palamountain Scholarship Fund, Office of Advancement, at Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY. 

Thursday, 29 January 2015 15:54

Chowderfest: More Delicious Than Ever!

By Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Now in it’s 17th year, Chowderfest is nothing less than a happening. Over time, it has ascended to a level where it rivals any event in this area. What makes Chowderfest distinctive is the time of year it occurs (this year’s event is on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), it’s tasty, and every year it keeps growing, growing, growing! 


Last year, The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, which coordinates the event, was pleased to hit a high-mark of 86 chowder outlets throughout downtown Saratoga Springs. In 2015, they have 92 at press time. Even so, don’t expect anyone to be standing around with a ladle, because year after year, chowder-loving consumers (with an emphasis on “consume”) descend upon downtown regardless of weather. Last year, just over 130,000 servings were enjoyed by an estimated 30,000 people. 


All the restaurants and purveyors are competing for your vote in a variety of categories. A triumph in any of them assures the winner bragging rights for an entire year. In fact, let us salute the 2014 winners one more time:


2014 Chowderfest Winners: 

People's Choice - Merry Monk

Most Chowder Served - Druthers

Best On Broadway - Stadium Cafe

Best Off Broadway - Olde Bryan Inn 

Best Dessert - Bettie's Cakes 

Best Newcomer - Thirsty Owl

Best Non Downtown - Fifty South

Best Chowder - Under 1,000 Served - Panza’s Restaurant

Dog Chow Down - Milton Manor Pet Spa


It’s a point of pride that spurs participants go all out to win your vote, and you get to enjoy the delicious consequences! 


As in previous years, the voting procedure is relatively simple:


- Pick up your official ballot at a number of places downtown. 

- Now the fun: sample to your heart’s content. Chowders cost $1 for a 3 oz. sample. Taste as many chowders at as many locations as you like and when you spot a favorite, pick up one of the participants’ stickers and place it on your ballot (don’t worry – they’ll have plenty.) 

- Completed ballots will have five stickers from participating businesses and can be turned in at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center or the Saratoga Springs City Center (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.) or the Saratoga Downtowner Motel (from 2 - 4 p.m.) 

- For an additional $10, Chowderfest attendees with a completed ballot can take home an official long-sleeve Chowderfest T-shirt with this year’s logo (2XL shirts are $12.) These have become collector’s items – further evidence of Chowderfest’s popularity.

- The tabulations will be going on all afternoon and winners are to be announced inside the Saratoga Springs City Center at 6:30 p.m. that evening.  


Other Highlights of Saturday’s Chowderfest:


- Free Shuttles  

A great new addition to Chowderfest. You can avoid any parking inconveniences and get on a free shuttle from two locations. Buses will be running from the Wilton Mall at Saratoga (next to Dick’s Sporting Goods) to the Post Office, and from Saratoga Casino & Raceway (Jefferson Street Entrance) to Congress Park from 10-6. Just follow the parking signs at either location.


- Dog Chow Down

Also, coming back for the seventh year in a row will be the Dog Chow Down,” with special chowders made for your canine friends. And at 1 p.m. the contestants making dog chowder will go head to head to win the coveted Best Dog Chowder trophy in the Saratoga Downtownerparking lot (413 Broadway.) The Chow Down will feature Mayor Joanne Yepsen and her dog; both will help to choose the trophy winner.



For more information, visit Discoversaratoga.org/Chowderfest or call (518) 584-1531.


Thursday, 22 January 2015 10:39

Mr. Chairman

Matt Veitch Takes the Reins of County Bd. of Supervisors

BALLSTON SPA – On Tuesday, Jan. 20, Matthew Veitch took the gavel and ran his first monthly meeting as Chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. Elected from the City of Saratoga Springs, he is the first to be chair from the city since Phil Klein had that role in 1992. 


This meeting represents a milestone in that Veitch now has overall responsibility for county operations, as he and his colleagues begin to administer the 2015 budget – which, in fact, Veitch had considerable input in creating as Vice Chairman and the head of the County’s Law and Finance Committee in 2014. 


Before Tuesday’s meeting, we discussed a wide range of subjects relating to 2015 plans and priorities:  


It’s a considerably different city and county since 1992… 


“Yes, We didn’t have many of the major developments you see today.” Veitch noted, “We had no racino, the flat track ran for only four weeks. In Saratoga Springs, we might have had 5,000 less people, but the overall makeup is completely different now.  Because of the developments in the county – GlobalFoundries chief among them, you have a situation where perhaps only 50 percent of the population is native now. Our challenge is to handle the larger size economy, but in some ways it is much easier because it is growing, in contrast to 1992 when there was a recession happening.” 


How do you see the 2015 budget going into the year and what initiatives are you looking towards as chairman

“We got a lot done last year (in the budget process) to set us up in good shape,” Veitch noted, listing funding for open space and trails, economic development and public safety as some of the priorities for the coming year. He also spoke about working along with Supervisor Phil Barrett on the county’s Public Safety committee.  “Our priorities there are to focus on two broad areas, and in fact the committee just formed two subcommittees to reflect that: one to focus on equipment needs such as body cams, and another for operations and procedure.” Veitch said. “This has always been a priority for me even though I represent an area that has it’s own police. First of all, your taxes pay for the sheriff regardless of where you live, and a safe county makes for a safe city.” 


How is it starting to feel as the person who leads the team? 


“Overall it’s great,” Veitch noted, citing inheriting a great staff such as Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Pamela Wright. “The biggest change is that I’m at the County offices every day now – with my new responsibilities there are always contracts and forms to sign, and learning operations. Another interesting development is that I am seeing my colleagues are looking to me for guidance on a variety of matters.” 


There are many new aspects that go with his new position, and it appears that Matt Veitch is embracing them all. 


For one, chairing the monthly Board of Supervisors meeting has an important ceremonial component. At Tuesday’s meeting, Veitch participated in issuing official proclamations and honors: To residents Adam Myers and Mike Campanella, as well as Deputy Sheriffs Jonathan Grady and Jeffrey O’Connor for their heroic life-saving efforts on behalf of a man in a burning vehicle that plunged into Murphy’s Pond in Clifton Park; and to William J. Davis upon his retirement as Chairman of the Saratoga County Sewer District. 


Committee appointments also fall under the Chairman’s purview. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved two appointments to the County Fire Advisory Board; as well as three to the Capital Resource Corporation – one of which was filled by Veitch himself, who volunteered to take the vacancy.  


Each Chairman also puts their own stamp on the office by announcing their own initiatives. One that Veitch has already pledged is to visit each Saratoga County town’s meeting at one point during the year to keep them updated about county proceedings. This is an extension of Veitch’s regular attendance at twice-monthly Saratoga Springs City Council meetings.


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