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ConcertsFreihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival June 24-25, 2023

Posted on Friday, June 30 2023 @ 00:06:09 CDT by Pete Pardo
Fusion

June 24th & 25th 2023 was a special weekend in Saratoga NY, as SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) hosted the 46th annual Jazz Festival that has been a staple since 1978. It is the fifth longest consecutive running jazz festival in North America. Two full days of music on two stages, with the main amphitheater hosting the larger acts, and a small stage on the lawn hosts some fine artists as well. The festival has a storied history, having hosted the likes of Chick Corea, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Miles Davis to name just a few.

For Day 1 we were greeted with heavy rain as the gates opened at 10am. The beauty of SPAC is the spacious lawn area, where you can setup tents to stay dry, and basically bring a cooler of your favorite beverages and food while you hunker down for the day. The key to this day was to stay dry. Cindy Blackman Santana opened the show on the main stage, and played a rocking set to warm up the crowd. Her bassist was none other than Felix Pastorious, son of Jaco, and they set a fine groove for the crowd. Guitarist David Gilmore got some jamming in, and to add more name power, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (son of John) was also aboard. Blackman was all over her kit, and the band fed off her energy. Unfortunately, because of the weather, I did not make to the small stage for most of the afternoon. Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes brought his quartet, and the 81 year old used his fleet fingers to sail across the keys with ease. Tower of Power followed with a funky and powerful set, and the band was celebrating 55 years together. They put on a great, energy filled show. Minneapolis native Cory Wong and his band were the stars of the day for me, intense, energetic, tight funky playing, and the horns were so good. Wong’s right hand was so percussive, his rythym playing was a blast to watch as he bounced around interacting with the other musicians. I have to acknowledge drummer Petar Janjic, he was simply amazing. I had to skip Angelique Kidjo as dinner was calling. Headliners Snarky Puppy played a tight hour and a half set to end day one, and it was my first time seeing them live. The ever shifting lineup had violin, only 1 guitarist. I really enjoyed their set, another high energy band, and for horn lovers, Saturday’s lineup could not be beat.

Day 2, Sunday brought bright blue sunny skies, the exact opposite of Saturday. Pat Metheny opened with his side-eye project at 12:45. Drummer Joe Dyson, and keyboardist Chris Fishman were the other band members on this day. I was surprised that he was the opener, but it was a great set, with a lot of energy. But, the act I was truly waiting for was Hiromi and she was on fire. The intensity with which she plays is unmatched, and it’s a joy to watch her eyeing the other musicians, keying off them, and always with a smile on her face. She did slow things down a bit on “Polaris”, and showcased her beautiful style on this one. I have to say that for me, Hiromi was the act of the day on Sunday. I could have easily watched her for much longer than her allotted time. St. Paul and The Broken Bones followed, a band which I was not at all familiar, and they brought some serious energy. But, at this point, it had been a long day, and again it was time to grab a little food so I missed most of their set. Bonnie Raitt closed the show, and she pleased the crowd with a string of her hits, along with some newer songs. She spoke to the audience often, introducing most of her songs, and telling the audience the meanings behind they lyrics and inspiration. She seemed genuinely honored to be there and closing out the weekend.

All I can say is that it was an amazing weekend of music. I was a bit disappointed that the small stage overlapped the main artists, making it difficult to see all the acts, but there was plenty of music to keep everyone happy.

Eric Porter



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