City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
WILTON – It is a weekday morning inside the Wilton Mall. Wedged between one shop that sports women’s summer fashions and another displaying torn men’s jeans, a series of piano rolls tumble into the hallway from behind the blackened windows of an abandoned retail space,
Inside the space where the piano melody flows, The Moll – portrayed by Ginger Costa-Jackson - and Bugs – played by Andy Papas - are rehearsing the opening scene of the controversial 1937 opera “The Cradle Will Rock.”
”I’d like to give you a hun-dred bucks, but I only got thir-tee cents,” Bugs proclaims in a speak-song voice, hoisting a cigar to his mouth beneath a brim-backwards baseball cap that rests atop his head.
“Make it a dollar,” sings The Moll, tugging at the fringes of her black shawl. There is no negotiating.
“That’s all I got. Thirty cents,” Bugs replies. Lawrence Edelson, the director, interrupts the scene.
“There needs to be more of a beat. There. Punctuation marks!” he says. A half-dozen or so others in the cavernous room fiddle with scripts, binders, the musical score. Rows of empty store shelves give off a yellow hue. A pair of benches sit in the middle of a floor spiked for blocking. Someone strikes the keys of the standup piano, and Bugs and The Moll begin again.
“That’s so much better,” Edelson says, finally pleased the scene is played to perfection. “Burning with tension!”
The show, “The Cradle Will Rock,” opens July 9 at the Spa Little Theater in the Saratoga Spa State Park. It is a piece that has historical implications.
“It’s remarkably timely considering it was written 80 years ago. It could have been written yesterday and you’d never know it,” says Edelson, matter-of-factly. “It speaks to contemporary audiences on its own terms in a vibrant way.”
Trained as a singer and having professionally performed as a dancer, this summer marks Edelson’s third as artistic and general director for Opera Saratoga. Edelson chooses the repertoire, puts all the production teams and the casting together, chooses the directors and conductors and casts all the singers. Opera Saratoga’s summer season – which opens this weekend - features performances of “Falstaff,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Marc Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” – the latter which Edelson is personally directing and choreographing.
“It’s about a wealthy businessman who is buying his way up in society. He is buying off the church, he is buying off the newspaper, buying off the university and the hospital, buying off all these different parts of society for his own gain. At the same time, he’s fighting the unions. And when you look at the headlines today…”
Edelson resists the temptation that was engaged by his theatrical peers at The Public Theater in New York City, whose current staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” portrays a very modern-day character resembling Donald Trump.
“The main character, Mr. Mister, one could easily tie him into a Trumpian character. But, that’s not the approach I’m taking. My job as a director is to present the story and the music to the best of my abilities the way the authors intended it,” Edelson explains. As is, the piece set in Steeltown U.S.A. drew controversy all its own when it premiered in pre-World War II America when its pro-union plot was feared as being too radical.
“It was actually shut down by the government on its opening night in 1937. The government had locked up the theater with all the costumes and the orchestral parts which they couldn’t get out. Orson Welles was the original director and John Houseman the producer. They rented a piano and moved it north 20 blocks and put it on a stage,” Edelson said.
“In an incredibly ironic act, the actors’ union forbid the performers from performing onstage - in a show that was pro-union! So Blitzstein started to play the piece on the piano onstage, to sing through it himself. What was extraordinary was the members of the cast sitting in the audience rose up one-by-one and started to perform from their seats. It became one of the most legendary evenings in all of music theater history.”
Controversy aside, the artistic result is that the original orchestration created by Marc Blitzstein – a frequent resident of the Yaddo arts colony in Saratoga Springs – is often neglected and almost always presented with just a piano.
“It only been performed twice with Blitzstein’s original orchestration. It has been 57 years since this piece has been done anywhere in the world the way Blitzstein intended. It’s really going to be a historically significant event for Saratoga Springs,” Edelson said. “And I think this cast is quite extraordinary. I don’t know if the piece has ever been sung this well before, quite frankly. I think audiences are going to be electrified by what they hear onstage.”
“The Cradle Will Rock,” with music, book and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein will be staged 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9, 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 11, 7:30 p.m. Thursday July 13 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.
“I don’t think about opera in a bubble. For me, opera is this amazing synthesis of the arts. as much theater as it is music and visual arts and dance, and for me that’s what makes opera exciting,” Edelson said. “We do one opera every year that is a masterpiece from the classical repertoire. This year that is ‘Falstaff’ – one of the greatest operas ever written. I think audiences whose tastes lean towards traditional opera are really going to love this but it’s also a great comic piece and a great introduction to opera. It’s one of the pieces you just laugh out loud at.” “Falstaff,” with music by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Arrigo Boito will be staged by Saratoga Opera on July 1, 6, 10 and 15.
“We’ve also been doing works that incorporate dance and movement – this being such a city that has an appreciation in dance. Last year we did the Philip Glass piece, ‘The Witches of Venice.’ This year we’ll be doing a piece by André Grétry, who was a Belgian composer. I chose it because it has dance and movement in it and it’s also a fairy tale which people know the story of. It’s a great introduction to opera for family audiences and a great way to introduce kids to opera. This particular production incorporates a lot of puppetry, which is a new element, something we haven’t done before.”
“Beauty and The Beast,” with music by André Grétry, libretto by Jean Francois Marmontel, will be staged July 2, 8 and 14. For tickets and more information of Opera Saratoga’s summer festival season, , go to: http://www.operasaratoga.org/.
Officials Provide Update of Three City “Workforce Housing” Projects
Saratoga Springs' Mayor Joanne Yepsen, County Chamber President Todd Shimkus and the city's Housing Task Force, led by Cheryl Hage-Perez, held a press conference Tuesday to provide an update regarding three “site-specific” workforce housing proposals in the city. The three projects, independent of one another, symbolize a starting point in addressing affordable housing needs for area residents who work in the city but are unable to secure housing within its borders.
The three workforce housing solutions are slated to be developed at: South Broadway on the site currently occupied by the Saratoga Diner (110 to 120 one and two-bedroom rental units); on vacant land adjacent to the rail station on West Avenue (120 units), and in a new building adjacent to the Stonequist Apartments on South Federal street (158 units).
The first two projects are currently being evaluated by the city’s Land Use boards. As proposed, the apartments will be offered to workers whose households earn approximately $36,000 to $80,000 annually.
It is important to note these are not low-income households, nor are they related to the “Inclusionary Zoning” or “SPA Housing Ordinance” currently being debated, which if approved would site “affordable” workforce apartments in all new developments citywide.
Code Blue Emergency Homeless Shelter Maintains Forward Track
An appeal filed by nearly two dozen residents in opposition to the building of a permanent Code Blue emergency homeless shelter on the city’s west side was rejected in a 7-0 vote by the city ZBA Monday night, in an overcrowded City Hall chamber attended by more than 70 people.
The proposed 6,400 square foot facility is slated to be sited on Walworth Street adjacent to the Shelters of Saratoga – which offers case management services, service referrals and resources and other programs to individuals who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness, since 1991. The project is believed to next be headed to the city Planning Board, which meets on July 13.
Voters to Decide on a New Form of Governing Nov. 7
The Charter Review Commission passed a resolution by an 11-2 vote at the Saratoga Music Hall Tuesday night, approving the final version of a Charter and proposing an alternative form of government.
Since its inception in 1915, the city has operated under a “commission” form of governing, comprised of four commissioners and one mayor each running separate departments and all having equal say. After 13 months of deliberation, the Commission concluded that a council-manager form of government would better serve the city. Voters will have their say at the polls on Nov. 7.
The proposal calls for a new City Council comprised of seven members, including the mayor, and the establishment of a professional City Manager to consolidate the city's administrative functions.
Tuesday night, the Commission adopted a handful of amendments to its draft plan. Among them is the suggested compensation of the mayor - an annual salary of $40,000 plus health and medical insurance coverage under the city’s plan – and the six other council members, stipulated as $14,500 annually with the option to purchase into the city medical at their own expense. Compensation would not be extended beyond the elected terms of any of the seven council members – each of whom must reside in the city.
"In our research, interviews and deliberations, we found that great benefit will come from consolidating the administration of city government under one professional manager, and giving the elected City Council powers of oversight, leadership, fiscal control and policy," said Commission Chairman Bob Turner.
July Paving Schedule
The following city roads will be under construction in July, according to the department of public works: Franklin Street - Washington Street to Division Street, mill Monday July 10 and pave Wednesday, July 12; Division Street - Clinton Street to Beekman Street, mill Tuesday, July 11 and pave Thursday, July 13; Pearl Street – van Dorn Street to Seward Street, mill Tuesday, July 11 and pave Thursday, July 13; pave Cobb Alley – Beekman Street to So. Franklin Street pave Wednesday, July 12.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - City Republican mayoral candidate Mark Baker released a statement Monday in advance of tonight’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting (7 p.m. at City Hall) where a discussion will be held regarding the proposed 61-bed homeless shelter on the city's west side.
In the statement, Baker says the current proposal “is not sufficient” in serving the homeless, and that “it does not adequately respect our neighborhoods and current residents,” suggesting that a city shelter may bring in more people in need from outside the community.
“As a community we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless,” says Baker, adding the shelter “may in fact create an even greater need, by attracting additional folks in need to the community versus Saratoga Springs embracing those who are in the city already needing a helping hand.”
While no alternative plan is offered, Baker says, “I am personally committed to finding a solution to this issue.”
Current Democrat Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who is not running for re-election, issued a response to Baker’s statements late Monday, which read, in part: “Mr. Baker's accusation that the Mayor's office, along with the many volunteers who have helped and donated to Code Blue since I have taken office, have somehow contributed to the homeless problem is misinformed, uncompassionate, and just plain mean spirited.”
Baker's statement, in its entirety, immediately follows. Yepsen's statement, in its entirety, follows below.
Candidate Mark Baker:
“I trust and expect the Saratoga Springs Zoning Broad will be realistic and objective when they evaluate the merits and challenges of approving a "Code Blue" facility in the heart of one of Saratoga Springs’ historic and most densely populated residential areas.
“As a community we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless, especially children. I am personally committed to finding a solution to this issue that is sensitive to those in need but is also responsible to our neighborhoods, schools and residents.
“The first step in finding a resolution and mutually acceptable solution is for city leaders, particularly the mayor, to listen and gather public input and guidance.
“The current proposal before the Zoning Board is not sufficient in how it will serve the homeless and it does not adequately respect our neighborhoods and current residents. A better solution needs to be investigated.
“It may, in fact, create an even greater need, by attracting additional folks in need to the community versus Saratoga Springs embracing those who are in the city already needing a helping hand.
“The past approach to these pressing questions and lack of public input, planning and thoughtfulness from the mayor’s office has led to real community problems of vagrancy, aggressive panhandling and encouraging the presence of homeless individuals downtown. In a tourist destination city, with a vibrant downtown residential community, these are problems for tourism, downtown business and public safety management of our community.
“The goal is to be responsive and compassionate to those who are homeless. The solution needs to be respectful and realistic. The current Zoning Board proposal is not the ‘best practice’ approach to addressing the question of how to help people to find shelter.”
Mayor Joanne Yepsen:
"Immediately after Nancy Pitts died on the winter streets of Saratoga Springs in December 2013 and before I was even sworn in as Mayor, I established Code Blue Saratoga with the help of many non-profits in our City stating, never would we allow anyone to die on the streets of Saratoga Springs due to exposure, under my administration. Since then, we have ended Veterans Homelessness with permanent housing and we are offering emergency shelter under the Code Blue Program. 95 % of Code Blue Saratoga guests are Saratogians. They are homeless, and in our community already and many are just temporarily down on their luck and need a helping hand. Not only does Code Blue save lives, but the guests are also receiving much needed support and services that they might not get otherwise. In fact, the Code Blue program is so successful that over 1/3 of all guests over the past few years have "graduated" and no longer need the emergency shelter.
“Since taking office, the Mayor's office has collaborated with the Chamber of Commerce, Shelters of Saratoga, neighborhoods, non-profits, places of worship, attended community meetings, and hosted countless meetings in my office with all who wanted to meet, discuss options, and help contribute to the solution. We even started a Code Blue Steering Committee made up of the community to work with me and Shelters throughout the program's existence. Wellspring, Giving Circle, Captain, Community Healthcare, Catholic Charities, EOC are all on board and have been involved since the beginning. This is a community collaboration.
“Since that snowy Christmas Eve in 2013 when we first opened our doors, a volunteer program organically developed of hundreds of caring and generous individuals and now have the added generosity of Ed and Lisa Mitzen. The leadership of Code Blue Saratoga is well-established and under the highly regarded and successful non-profit Shelters of Saratoga, which offered to oversee a solution to keep people from living off the streets, otherwise it's back on the streets for homeless.
“After much input, debate, and conversations, the question becomes very simple: "What kind of community do we want to be?" Do we want to be the kind of City that allows our most disadvantaged people to die on the streets? Or do we want to be the kind of City who come together, who collectively advocate and fund raise, who strategize and think through together as a community how to best approach our homeless issue both in the short term as well as the long term.
“Mr. Baker's accusation that the Mayor's office, along with the many volunteers who have helped and donated to Code Blue since I have taken office, have somehow contributed to the homeless problem is misinformed, uncompassionate, and just plain mean spirited. Based on Mark Baker's naive position, many will guess he's never attended a Code Blue Steering Committee meeting or volunteered in the shelter, as so many Saratogians have done. I would guess the question on many readers minds would be what has he done in the last four years to offer a solution or be a part of the conversation? He really ought to be ashamed of himself. I understand he is operating in campaign mode, we are trying to save lives here."
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Quinn Sullivan was in the second grade when legendary bluesman Buddy Guy pulled the 8-year-old guitar player onto the stage in his native New Bedford, Massachusetts to show what he could do.
“I'm like, "There's no way in the world you can play these notes,” Buddy Guy told Rolling Stone, regarding the performance. “He was hitting Eric Clapton, he was hitting me, Stevie, Jimi Hendrix. I couldn't even play a radio when I was seven or eight years old! Players like him come along once in a lifetime. I said, 'I need to let the world know about you.'"
A decade later, the guitar prodigy has shredded six-string licks in front of the TV cameras for Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Kimmel and NBC's The Today Show, performed at music festivals alongside Dave Matthews, Sonic Youth, and Pearl Jam, and received a standing ovation while on stage at the Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden with his mentor Buddy Guy. Surreal, he says.
“The musical influence came right from the time when I was a little kid,” says Sullivan, who celebrated his 18th birthday in March. “My parents bought me a First Act acoustic guitar for Christmas – one of those kids’ guitars - when I was about three years old. That was my first encounter. They also played me all different kinds of music, from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers band. In my house, the music was always playing and I would just sit down, and absorb it all.”
Sullivan released his debut album, “Cyclone,” in 2011. His latest, “Midnight Highway,” was released last year. Sunday afternoon, local fans can catch the blues phenom on the big stage during Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The event, which takes place on two stages Saturday and Sunday, features nearly two dozen acts and is headlined by Chaka Khan - on Saturday night, and the Gipsy Kings – who close the festival on Sunday.
A living contradiction of the classic Alice Cooper tune about teen angst, Sullivan is 18 and he knows what he wants.
“There are the normal things that are great about becoming 18, but I think I’ve grown up in such a good environment with really great people in my life and a support system that has always been there and surrounded me. My main focus now is to just put on the best show I can,” says the guitarist, who performed nearly 100 shows last year and will certainly top that number in 2017.
“I’ve been able to evolve; Playing with the guys I’ve been playing with for years now we’ve reached this level on stage where everybody is jelling and the chemistry is very good,” Sullivan says. “I think the future of music – real music anyways - is live music and live performances, more so than records. I love the recording process and making records, but to me you need to have that same level of confidence on stage,” he says. “I think that’s what a true artist does, and that’s what I’m trying to do: to better my live show, and to not be afraid to take chances. Life in general is about taking chances especially when you’re in the music industry. I’m all about learning more and more every single day. “
With a bright future ahead of him, Sullivan says the musical path is without restriction, or limit. And while some may try to tag him strictly a blues artist, the guitarist says he won’t be pigeonholed into such fine a category.
“I don’t think of music as one thing, six different genres. I think if you’re putting out music that touches someone, that helps someone feel something, that’s the key to great music. I have so many different influences that I take from and I want to put that into what I do,” he says. “The sky’s the limit.”
If he wasn’t a touring musician, Sullivan says he imagines he somehow would have found his way into some segment of the arts. And at the age of 18, he’s not so far removed from his initial inspiration of what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“When I was a little kid, it was funny, I wanted to be a police officer. That was my first love,” recalls Sullivan of an age when the guitar was still a hobby. “I had a cousin who I used to play cops and robbers with all the time. I was totally down for that.”
View Quinn Sullivan at various stage of his musical life:
- The 8-year-old guitar prodigy tears it up on the B.B. King classic, "The Thrill is Gone," at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHoO3JHnn3Q.
- Performing Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing,” a sunburst Strat draped across his lithe torso, his chest be-spotted with a Sex Pistols “T-Shirt, on stage at the Western Maryland Blues Festival, June, 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMl7FYVz8x8
- Sullivan’s latest, “Something for Me,” featuring noise-infused blues on the cobblestone streets of downtown Manhattan: https://youtu.be/C1oIzzxtOUQ
Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will be held Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25 at SPAC. For more information about artists performing and tickets to the festival, go to: http://www.spac.org/events/jazz-festival.
ALBANY – The New York State Department of Health announced this week that a healthcare worker employed by Hudson Headwaters has been confirmed to have measles. The highly contagious respiratory disease causes a rash and fever and can be passed from one person to another just by being in a room where someone with measles coughed or sneezed.
Symptoms appear about 10 to 12 days after a person is exposed to measles. The infected individual, in addition to working at Hudson Headwaters, spent time at a Saratoga County Home Depot, the Stadium Restaurant on Broadway, and a Warren County medical practice between June 5 and June 8.
The state DOH warns anyone who visited the following locations may have been exposed: Home Depot (garden section of store), 3043 Route 50, Wilton-Saratoga Springs border between noon and 2 p.m. on June 5; Saratoga Stadium restaurant, 389 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, between 6:15 - 9:30 p.m. on June 7, and the following three Hudson Headwaters Health Network locations: Warrensburg Health Center, 3767 Main St., between 7:25 a.m. - 7 p.m. on June 6, or between 10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on June 7; Hudson Headwaters Health Network, 9 Carey Rd., Queensbury, between 7 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. on June 7; Hudson Headwaters Health Network West Mountain Health Services, 161 Carey Rd., Building 1, Queensbury, between 7:45 – 10:35 a.m. on June 8.
The times reflect the period that the infected individual was in these areas and a two-hour period after the individual left the area, as the virus remains alive in air and on surfaces for up to two hours. This explains the overlap in times. A person with measles can pass it to others from four days before a rash appears through the fourth day after the rash appears.
Symptoms generally appear in two stages.
In the first stage, which lasts two to four days, the individual may have a runny nose, cough and a slight fever. Eyes may become reddened and sensitive to light while the fever gradually rises each day.
The second stage begins on the third to seventh day and consists of a red blotchy rash lasting five to six days. The rash usually begins on the face and then spreads downward and outward, reaching the hands and feet. Although measles is usually considered a childhood disease, it can be contracted at any age.
Individuals lacking immunity or not sure if they have been vaccinated, should contact their health care provider if they develop measles symptoms. Symptoms include a fever, rash, cough, conjunctivitis or runny nose. Symptoms usually appear in 10-12 days after exposure.
To prevent the spread of illness, the state DOH advises anyone who may have been exposed and who has symptoms consistent with measles to contact their health care provider or a local emergency department before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness. After contacting their health care provider, symptomatic individuals should also contact the local health department.
A person is unlikely to get measles if they were born before Jan. 1, 1957, have received two doses of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine or have a lab test confirming immunity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 100 people from 11 states – including New York - were from Jan. 1 to May 20, 2017 reported to have measles. In 2016, those reports numbered 70 people, and in 2015 -188 people. In 2014, the United States experienced a record number of measles cases, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases - marking the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.
For more information about measles, go to: https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2170/.
Where did you grow up and what helped shape you creatively?
I was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Saratoga Springs when I was around 10 years old. My earliest memories include my mom taking my brother and I to art museums, and driving around in the front seat of my dad's pickup truck, because the backseat was too full of construction tools. In large ways and small, my mom and dad would always put me at the intersection of inspiration and the possibility to make something... so I was off to a good start.
I couldn't read or write until I was around eight because of a learning disability, and that was incredibly discouraging for me throughout my time in school. As a result, I always gravitated towards expressing myself through art in some capacity.
How does the creative process work for you?
It's incredibly unpredictable. Sometimes things will begin to crystalize after I've been sitting with the guitar for a little while, and other times fully formed choruses will erupt in my head - lyrics and all. I've written songs in the car and in the shower, but many of them were born in the middle of the night on my bedroom floor. Just in case, I always try to carry a notebook with me.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned traveling around the world?
The world is on your side, if you'll let it be. People want to connect with one another and help each other. When I've trusted that, and approached others with kindness, curiosity and enthusiasm, I've heard beautiful stories and had incredible conversations and have made wonderful friends. Even when bad things happened, they only opened up more room for the good in people to flourish and be seen.
On Sunday night, your homecoming will be celebrated with a concert at Caffè Lena. What can people coming to the show expect?
It's been about two years since I've played a proper show in Saratoga, so I want it to be a blast for everyone, and unique. I'll be playing songs new and old. I'm toying with the idea of playing the first song I ever played at Caffè Lena's open mic when I was 17. It might be a little embarrassing, hahaha. I attended the open mics religiously as a teenager. I would sit with other musicians in the greenroom and they would teach me cool things I could try on guitar, or we would talk about a song I was working on. The whole night is going to be really special to me, and I'm hoping everyone feels that.
Folks attending will also be given a CD with an exclusive preview of your next record.
Often we only see the finished product, and Caffè Lena is where I learned to value and fully engage with the process of writing songs. The process of writing was made so special because of the people I met there, and I thought it would be fun and appropriate to share a work "in process."
MaryLeigh Roohan will perform at Caffè Lena at 7 p.m. on Sunday June 25. Tickets are $14 general public, $12 café members and $7 students and kids.
SARATOGA – A city woman was found inside her overturned vehicle just before 6 p.m. Tuesday by state Police responding to a report of a vehicle submerged in Fish Creek.
The woman, 66-year-old Ellen T. Steinberger, of Saratoga Springs, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators, who responded to the incident at Brown Point Lane in the town of Saratoga, found the 2007 Toyota Solara overturned after it had exited the bridge that crosses the creek. They do not suspect foul play.
“She was generous, funny, and a tremendous caregiver,” said Sue Edwards, who worked with Steinberger at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, where Steinberger was a volunteer at the Saratoga Room. She also provided walking tours at the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. It is believed Steinberger – who was passionate about the arts in Saratoga - was originally from Long Island.
Authorities said the bridge is a single lane path with railroad ties as side barriers on a private roadway. An autopsy is expected to be conducted Wednesday.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Keeping up with potential development projects in the city can sometimes be a daunting task, but this Thursday's Planning Board meeting – held 7 p.m. at City Hall - offers residents the opportunity to learn more about three major project proposals in their infancy stage and looming on the future horizon.
The projects slated for discussion are:
Mixed-use development on West Avenue (here’s a link to our original story : http://www.saratogatodayonline.com/home/item/6043-you-are-looking-at-significant-development-saratoga-springs-grows-west);
South Broadway (diner) redevelopment (learn more here: http://www.saratogatodayonline.com/home/item/6353-diner-to-be-razed-at-saratoga-gateway-and-a-new-vision-for-south-broadway ); and a new condominium complex at 120 Henry Street (city application link here: http://saratoga-springs.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/1855?fileID=7394).
Danny Melnick grew up on Long Island listening to The Who and the Rolling Stones records the older kids used to play. His friends loved Kiss, the Good Rats, and Twisted Sister; his younger brother had a fondness for pop new wave.
“Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys,” he bristles. “Music I couldn’t stand then, and music I still can’t listen to today.”
Melnick was more drawn into a world of moody tempo changes, haunting mellotrons and lyrical fantasy. Melnick was a Prog kid.
“Somehow, I got into Progressive Rock: King Crimson and Yes, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull. Through that education I learned about Miles Davis and John Coltrane and then quickly on to people like Dave Holland and John Abercrombie, Gary Burton and early Pat Metheny,” he says. “It really opened up my ears to a lot of things.”
Why this all matters is the reasoning behind what brings thousands of people to the Spa City every year for The Hang. This month, the Saratoga jazz festival celebrates its 40th anniversary with two days of shows on two stages, marking the fifth longest-consecutive-running jazz festival in North America.
Melnick first worked with the festival in 1991, overseeing the transport of musicians from New York City to Saratoga Springs. “The band bus monitor,” he says. Eight years later he was in charge of booking all the artists to perform at the festival.
“The market there is pretty interesting. The audiences in Saratoga have been coming to this festival at SPAC for a very long time. They’re committed to it. We’ve got people coming in from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the tri-state New York City area, and of course, the Capital Region. So, for me, as a presenter, I’m trying to appeal to all of them with a great mix of artists,” Melnick says. He’s also cognizant of maintaining traditions.
“When I look back at the acts in the late ‘70s and ‘80s there was always blues, always Latin, always straight-ahead jazz, a little bit of avantgarde here and there. I try very hard to continue that. The biggest challenge in modern times is that so many legendary jazz legends have died,” Melnick says, riffing on a memory list of the departed that includes Dave Brubeck and Ray Charles, B.B. King and Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Art Blakely and Ella Fitzgerald. “I can name fifty artists who have played the festival and who today are gone. So now, I have to mix it up a little more.
“The festival needs to keep going forward. In order to stay alive and stay relative you need to book a diverse roster of artists who can tell where the music is today,” he says. “I want people to learn about new artists, I want them to be entertained and to have fun. I want emerging jazz artists to have a platform, to be heard, to build careers so that hopefully they will become headliners in the future.”
This year’s Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival - initially called the Newport Jazz Festival at Saratoga when it launched in 1978 – will feature a new, bigger gazebo stage for emerging artists to showcase their talents.
“Quite a few people who started out playing the gazebo stage have moved on, to the main stage, or are playing bigger festivals around the world. It’s cool that the festival audience is supporting the artists. They’re listening to them, they’re meeting them, they’re getting their autographs, they’re buying their CD’s. And there are no walls between the artists and the audience, it’s all right there,” says Melnick, president and director of Absolutely Live Entertainment. His official title at the Saratoga jazz festival is producing partner and artistic director.
His accomplishments as a presenter include a world tour commemorating the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue" recording, North American tours celebrating the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 55th anniversary, and the Newport Jazz Festival’s 60th, concerts at Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival and a Blue Note Records' four month-long 70th Anniversary tour.
“There were nights when I was hanging out with Dizzie Gillespie backstage in Japan and thinking: really? How did this happen?” Prior to forming ALE, Melnick was the artistic director and a senior producer at George Wein's Festival Productions company.
“I have a lot of great memories and incredible stories. I’ve been very lucky over the years to be in the places that I’ve been and do the work that I’ve done, particularly in all the years when I worked as an employee for George Wein,” he says of the jazz impresario who founded the local festival in 1978. One recent memory involved booking legends Tony Bennett and Buddy Guy on the festival’s closing night in 2013.
“Buddy Guy was set to close with Tony Bennett going on before him. A week before the festival, Buddy’s agent calls.
“Buddy has a problem closing,” Guy’s agent told him. “He feels weird going on after Tony Bennett. He doesn’t want to disrespect Tony.”
“I said: What? What do you mean?”
“Well, Tony is a legend and Buddy feels, who is he to go on after Tony Bennett?” the agent said.
“Listen, ‘Buddy Guy is a legend also,’ I told him. Tony is going to go out there with a jazz trio. He’s going to sing standards. He’s going to put the microphone down at one point and sing an amazing a capella tune, and then Buddy’s going to come out with his electric blues band and rip the place to smithereens,” Melnick recalled. Those in attendance will recall that’s exactly how it all went down.
“It was all vetted with Tony, and he was fine with it. The agent called me back to say Buddy was cool with everything. What was so interesting to me to hear, after all those years and success and awards that an artist like Buddy Guy still had the humility to look at the situation and express themselves in that way.”
The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The milestone event features the return of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Luc-Ponty - who performed on the inaugural 1978 festival. Headlining the weekend are Chaka Khan, and the Gipsy Kings. Jazz 100, led by Danilo Pérez, will pay homage to iconic musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Mongo Santamaria, and Thelonious Monk in celebration of the 100th anniversary of their shared birth year. For more information about the festival go to: www.spac.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following an ongoing investigation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 10 unlawfully present adult males and one unaccompanied alien minor Wednesday, in Saratoga Springs. The men - one Guatemalan national and nine Mexican nationals, who are between the ages of 20-49, currently face administrative immigration violations.
The arrests occurred without incident near multiple area residences. Three of the adult males are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation. All of the adult males are currently being held at the Albany County Correctional Facility, according to a statement issued by ICE on Thursday.
The unaccompanied alien minor was served with a Notice to Appear in immigration court, and transferred to the Department Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement for placement, consistent with ICE policy relating to minors.
Just over two weeks ago, special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 men in Saratoga Springs with alleged administrative immigration violations.