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Virtual Freihofer Saratoga Jazz Festival this weekend

Njabulo Ngubane | Jun 26, 2020

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival might not be taking place live on the grounds of Saratoga Performing Arts Center this weekend, but jazz fans will still have their fix of great music.

SPAC, Caffe Lena and Absolutely Live Entertainment (the producer of the event) are uniting to offer Stay at Home Sessions, which will be streamed free of charge over the weekend.

At 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 26-28, there will be live streams of international talent and local talents ranging from an evening of Cuban rhythms — a jazz and folk inspired night — and an uplifting finale of soul and Motown.

To watch Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions, tune in to Caffé Lena’s YouTube channel at 8 p.m. each night of the festival.

Danny Melnick, the president of Absolutely Live Entertainment calls the Stay at Home Sessions “a three-night love letter to our longtime festival devotees and a snapshot of the artistry and the music typically heard at the festival.”

Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Sarah Craig, Executive Director of Caffe Lena, are each impressed with the cooperation of the musicians involved. “It’s clear that underlying all the business and negotiating, most of the industry is fueled by a genuine belief in the positive power of music,” says Craig.

For Sobol, it is not only the cooperation of artists, agents, business managers. What especially warms her heart is the continuing support of Freihofer, who has been the chief corporate sponsor for 23 years, yet eagerly supports this new format.

Artistically, Sobol is impressed with the diversity of music offered in three nights. “It is not a replacement, but it captures the spirit and reflects the purpose of the Jazz Festival as a whole.”

Some videos will be produced by nationally-known artists, while local musicians will perform live from the stage of Caffe Lena in Saratoga. There will be no audiences and all safety health measures are in effect.

It kicks off Friday evening with a Cuban-themed program featuring Pedrito Martinez, who is a Havana-born star with an international following. Martinez is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading percussionists. He has recorded or performed with Eric Clapton, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Sting. He’s good; really good.

Also performing on Friday is pianist and composer Chuck Lamb who will join forces with keyboardist/pianist Jorge Gomez to share their original “Cuban meets Jazz Fusion” music. Their set will consist of original music composed for this event.

The Stay-at-Home Sessions continue on Saturday, June 27 with the Grammy Award-winning husband and wife duo, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn creating a folk, bluegrass and jazz-inspired evening. Did I say Grammy Award-winning? To be exact, Bela Fleck has won 15 Grammys. The pair use the banjo to showcase America’s rich heritage in unique and innovative ways around the world.

Adding to the Saturday night fun will be the Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio. The musicians, Brian Halliday (piano), Samuel Smith (bass), and Quinton Cain (drums), were musically trained at Skidmore Jazz Institute.

Sunday introduces a touch of celebrity to the mix. Jon Batiste, who is probably best known for his role as bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is also a Grammy-nominated musician. Television only offers a taste of his mastery on the piano and his wailing on the “harmonaboard.” Saturday will be a revelation to those who think of Batiste as merely a sidekick personality.

A genuine bonus on Saturday’s program will be a rousing tribute to Motown and soul music. “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” is more than an add-on performance. It’s an event onto Itself. Local musician and bandleader Garland Nelson ensemble of singers and musicians gathered from the best Capital Region bands will offer an exciting tribute to the golden age of soul music.

It’s not to be missed.

The three evenings of entertainment are offered free of charge at the Caffe Lena You Tube page. Though free, the event is also a fundraiser for the Equal Justice Initiative. Donations will be accepted for the organization working towards ending mass incarcerations and excessive punishments in the United States.

Written by Njabulo Ngubane

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