All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

3

Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival 2017

R.J. DeLuke By

Sign in to view read count
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival
Saratoga Springs, NY
June 24-25, 2017

Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary this year and it was done in fine fashion. Acts from the very first festival in 1978 (A George Wein creation) appeared, as well as young up-and-coming artists. The latter has become a staple of the festival. Producer Danny Melnick (who worked for Wein for many years) goes out of his way to present relatively unheralded talent. Usually at a stage—the gazebo stage—toward the rear of the festival grounds, away from the main amphitheater stage. This year, the old gazebo was replaced with a new one. The sight lines and sound are better for attendees, and the stage itself is better for bands.

The festival in upstate New York is an outdoor event held at the gorgeous Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Folks sit on the lawn picnicking, use their amphitheater seats—in an open-air setting under a roof—or catch acts at the gazebo. In fact, they do all three. For 40 years. It was fitting that the opening act was the Dave Stryker Organ Quartet. Not that his band has the biggest name (though his bands are always first-rate), but under blue sunny skies, they established a groove, a vibe, that has been on the grounds that particular weekend for four decades.

Stryker is a wonderful player in the mainstream jazz style. Sweet tone, chops enough to burn down the house when appropriate. He brought with him one of today's top tenor saxophonists, Eric Alexander, and they were bolstered by Jared Gold on organ and McClenty Hunter on drums. Alexander was in great form, a muscular tone, spitting out rapid phrases and funky sounds. Gold's organ hummed and cooked. Tunes like "Amsterdam After Dark" and "Superfly" (yes, that "Superfly," Curtis Mayfield fans) set that grooving vibe. The ballad "Everything Happens To Me" was a sweet rendition and Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar" was special, one that would have made the author, and Stryker's boss for a period of about 10 years, happy

When it comes to pure, hard jazz, no one approached the band Hudson, comprised of greats Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier. They played their asses off. DeJohnette's polyrhythmic drumming showed his power, and his ability to get down and funky. Scofield's angular, soaring lines were as hot as the summer weather, but not over cluttered. Great feeling. The communication between he and Medeski is what group improvisation is about. Often, Scofield faced Medeski's keyboards and the two would trade ideas, feeding off one another. Jazz. Period. They weren't playing jazz tunes. They did some rock covers. The music had an organic, grooved feel. One was injected with bopish swing, the closer "Tony, Then Jack" (reference to drummer Tony Williams, who played for Miles Davis and when he departed, was replaced by DeJohnette), written by Scofield. "Wait Until Tomorrow" was an example of their infectious jazz/groove fusion.

Fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty played at the festival in 1978. He returned nearly four decades later and played music from the 1970s and 1980s that he recorded for the Atlantic label. His group was sharp, cranking out searing sounds heard on Imaginary Voyage and Enigmatic Oceans. His playing, at age 76, hasn't lost anything.

A group featuring Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, Jason Palmer, Josh Roseman, Ben Street, Adam Cruz and Roman Diaz interpreted works by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Mongo Santamaria. This was not your normal cover band. Each arrangement took the music somewhere else, away from the original. Diz and Monk would have approved. Cruz's drums and the strong percussion of Diaz were prominent throughout. Lovano excelled as always, playing flurries of notes that cascaded through each song.

Cecile McLorin Salvant made her festival debut and sparkled as always. She may have the richest voice in jazz today, gorgeous and sensual. She sang not-so-standards and standards as well. She knows how to bring a listener in with clear, clean sound and beautiful expression of a lyric. Intricate, yet accessible phrasing.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Aquarius

Aquarius

Dave Stryker
8 Track

CD/LP/Track Review
In Pictures
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Strykin’ Ahead

Strykin’ Ahead

Strikezone
2017

buy
Routes

Routes

Strikezone Records
2016

buy
Eight Track II

Eight Track II

Strikezone Records
2016

buy
Messin' with Mister T

Messin' with Mister T

Strikezone Records
2015

buy
Messin’ with Mister T

Messin’ with Mister...

Strikezone Records
2015

buy
Eight Track

Eight Track

Strikezone Records
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Black Flower at Moriska Paviliongen Live Reviews
Black Flower at Moriska Paviliongen
by Patrick Burnette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Fred Frith's solo performance at the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra's Concert Hall Live Reviews
Fred Frith's solo performance at the Macedonian...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 23, 2018
Read Brussels Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Brussels Jazz Festival 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: February 22, 2018
Read Branford Marsalis and Jean-Willy Kunz at the Kimmel Center Live Reviews
Branford Marsalis and Jean-Willy Kunz at the Kimmel Center
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: February 18, 2018
Read Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre Live Reviews
Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 17, 2018
Read Hitch On 2017 Live Reviews
Hitch On 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: February 17, 2018
Read "Mark Hagan's Jazz Salon At The Old 76 House" Live Reviews Mark Hagan's Jazz Salon At The Old 76 House
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Jazzkaar 2017" Live Reviews Jazzkaar 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: May 29, 2017
Read "Kongsberg Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Kongsberg Jazz Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "My Morning Jacket on The Green At Shelburne Museum" Live Reviews My Morning Jacket on The Green At Shelburne Museum
by Doug Collette
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017