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Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival, Saratoga Springs, NY, June 29-30, 2013

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The baritone sax stalwart Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
b.1956
sax, baritone
played his typical set—typically outstanding—searing through the jazz mainstream with Mike LeDonne
Mike LeDonne
Mike LeDonne
b.1956
piano
on the Hammond organ, Paul Bollenback
Paul Bollenback
Paul Bollenback
b.1959
guitar
on guitar and Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
b.1968
drums
on drums. He never fails to please. Another guy who's also showing he never fails when he gets a chance to get his own group on the stage, is bassist Ben Williams. He's one of the great young bassists on the entire scene, and as such keeps quite busy. But his Sound Affects group does everything from swing to groove. The rhythm pocket is so solid, it must be a great ride for all the soloists, which included Matt Stevens
Matt Stevens
Matt Stevens
b.1975
guitar
, the guitarist who's known for his work with Christian Scott
Christian Scott
Christian Scott
b.1983
trumpet
. Stevens may not be as well known as some of his colleagues, but don't go to sleep on him. He's a guitar slinger and played his butt off.



Pianist Fabian Almazan
Fabian Almazan
Fabian Almazan
b.1984
piano
is a fiendish pianist who's been plying his trade with the Terrence Blanchard band, interacting with cats like the great drummer Kendrick Scott
Kendrick Scott
Kendrick Scott
b.1980
drums
. He played a set with some equally fine representatives of the younger age group in jazz, the wonderful Rudy Royston
Rudy Royston
Rudy Royston

drums
on drums and the strong and flexible Linda Oh
Linda Oh
Linda Oh

bass
on the bass. They played great together, interpreting some very cool music from the pen of Almazan.

A bit disappointing was the Chris Bergson
Chris Bergson
Chris Bergson

guitar
band led by a guitarist who had spent time with Levon Helm, and whose band played some good blues, but somehow seemed underwhelming. Good voice, nice guitar, not much pizzazz from the bandstand. For example, Chris O'Leary a singer and harmonica player who cut his teeth with Helm, was a blessing to the roofing industry in Saratoga a few weeks prior when he played three sets of high-voltage, fun stuff that tore the lid off and left the town shaking. Same lineage, different effect. Singer Brianna Thomas had a strong voice and a good band, but she relied too much on power and detracted from sections of her songs. Good and, good choices. Perhaps more seasoning will do the trick.

The 2013 edition of the Saratoga Jazz Festival will be hard to top, but the anticipation will have people looking forward to The Hang.


Photo Credit
Richard Conde

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