The Return of Live Music: “Freihofer’s® Saratoga Jazz Festival,” June 26-27 at SPAC

On the Cover: Saturday Headliner Dianne Reeves

{{{ Editor’s Note: All the details you need – Lineup, Ticketing details, and the requisite COVID-19 Protocols – appear below. I could have rushed to put this up yesterday, when it came off the embargoed release date, but I decided to “hang” back and monitor the reactions to this announcement on social media.

While many people understood how much of a major undertaking and achievement this announcement represents, there were, unfortunately, a number of people who took the time to crab that they won’t be able to wander around aimlessly; and that it is, in so many words ‘not the way it used to be…” Well….

It certainly won’t be like it was in 2020 – remember that festival? Oh right, it was cancelled.

As are many of the other, long-standing jazz festivals around the country this year. They are giving it a total pass, one mo’ time.

In the face of shifting protocols, regulations and guidelines – there had to reach a point in time for SPAC to say “go” or “no go” on the Jazz Festival – and it says here they made the right choice – and are bringing a great line-up to town.

Many of these performers have been off for a year or more… Can you just imagine how, well, JAZZED UP, they are going to be!

One can always nitpick about this change or that. I prefer to appreciate the process of progress – which makes me grateful for today and hopeful for the future. – AG }}}

2021’s “Hang” will look different… but will be a vast improvement over 2020! Photo: Shawn LaChapelle

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Absolutely Live Entertainment announce the return of the2021 Freihofer’s® Saratoga Jazz Festival, marking the first live performances on SPAC’s stage since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered arts venues last spring.The festival will beheadlined by DIANNE REEVES, CÉCILE MCLORIN SALVANT, CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE’S NEW JAWN, AL DI MEOLA, JOEY ALEXANDER and ARTEMIS, presented by Skidmore Jazz Institute, andwill also feature acclaimed local musicians including GARLAND NELSON leading “JOYFUL NOISE” and HOT CLUB OF SARATOGA, presented by Caffè Lena.

Slated for Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, gates will open each day at 10 a.m. with performances scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. The festival will be presented in compliance with the current guidelines from the Governor of New York to ensure the health and safety of artists, audience members and staff. As required by the State, all attendees of the festival will be required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of the event. 

“Our Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival is always one of the most exhilarating and anticipated weekends of the year, kicking off our summer season. While this year’s festival will look a little bit different as a result of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, the very fact that we will once again be able to join together on the SPAC grounds for live music feels absolutely miraculous,”  says Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  “Once again, we are grateful to Freihofer’s, which has been a generous and steadfast supporter of the festival for the past 24 years.”

“Programming this year’s festival has been an emotional experience. Most of the artists will be performing live for the first time since March 2019 and they are all excited to come back to SPAC! The power of live music is peerless and I know the festival will be an inspiring weekend for all of us,” says Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment. 

 In order to maintain social distancing and uphold mandated guidelines by New York State, the 2021 festival will feature performances from noon to 6 p.m. on both days, all scheduled for the main amphitheater stage. Guests are welcome to bring in food in a clear plastic bag and factory sealed water; there will also be food and beverage options available to purchase on site. In addition, guests are permitted to bring in their own blankets (no larger than their designated pod size), chairs, personal umbrellas or clip-on umbrellas and essential personal items. 

“Freihofer’s is so proud to partner with SPAC on the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival for the past 24 years. This event is a local favorite and it wouldn’t be summer without it! We’re thrilled to be able to support this event for the local community to get out and enjoy a wonderful weekend of incredible music, amazing atmosphere and an overall enjoyable experience,” says Dana Trimback, Brand Manager at Bimbo Bakeries USA. 



Dianne Reeves 

Five-time Grammy(R) Award winner Dianne Reeves is the pre-eminent jazz vocalist in the world. As a result of her breathtaking virtuosity, improvisational prowess, and unique jazz and R&B stylings, Reeves received the Grammy(R) for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for three consecutive recordings – a Grammy(R) first in any vocal category. Featured in George Clooney’s six-time Academy Award nominated Good Night, and Good Luck, Reeves won the Best Jazz Vocal Grammy(R) for the film’s soundtrack. 

Reeves has recorded and performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Reeves was the first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the first vocalist to ever perform at the famed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Reeves’s most recent release Beautiful Life, features Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway and Esperanza Spalding. Produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, Beautiful Life won the 2015 Grammy(R)  for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. Reeves is the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School. In 2018 the National Endowment for the Arts designated Reeves a Jazz Master – the highest honor the United States bestows on jazz artists.  ­

Christian McBride’s New Jawn  

Photo: Anna Webber

Seven-time Grammy(R) Award winning jazz bassist Christian McBride draws from his hometown roots in Philadelphia for his latest project, Christian McBride’s New Jawn. On the group WBGO says, “Built from the ground up — with McBride on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums, Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, and Josh Evans on trumpet — the band combined post-bop harmonic daring with a good dollop of axle grease.” 

Joey Alexander  

Indonesian jazz pianist, contemporary bandleader and composer Joey Alexander will return to Saratoga for his third festival appearance. Joey, who will celebrate his eighteenth birthday at the festival, is the youngest jazz artist ever nominated for a Grammy (R) Award in a jazz category. As heard on WARNA, his new Verve Records debut, he’s emerged as one of the most expressive and thrilling pianist-composers currently at work in jazz, earning three Grammy(R) nominations. Known for his precocity, his music, including original work and personalized interpretations of great songs has now taken its place in the spotlight.  

Hot Club of Saratoga 

Presented by Caffè Lena   

Making its festival debut, Hot Club of Saratoga is upstate New York’s premier gypsy swing ensemble, performing a repertoire that reflects the spirit and style originated by Django Reinhardt and The Quintet of the Hot Club of France prominent in the 1930’s.The driving rhythms under dynamic soloing give the music a life and vibrancy that inspires an irresistible desire to dance.  


Cécile McLorin Salvant 

Recently named “Female Vocalist of the Year” by the 2021 Jazz Journalists Association, Cécile McLorin Salvant is a composer, singer, and visual artist. Salvant has developed a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between vaudeville, blues, folk, theater, jazz, and baroque music. Salvant is an eclectic curator, unearthing rarely recorded, forgotten songs with strong narratives, interesting power dynamics, unexpected twists, and humor.  She has received Grammy (R) Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her three latest albums, The WindowDreams and Daggers, and For One To Love, and was nominated for the award in 2014 for her album WomanChild. In 2020, Salvant received the MacArthur fellowship and the Doris Duke Artist Award. Salvant’s latest work, Ogresse, is a musical fable in the form of a cantata that blends folk, baroque, jazz, and country. 


Presented by Skidmore Jazz Institute  

2021 Jazz Journalist Association’s “Mid-Size Ensemble of the Year,” Artemisis an all-female supergroup comprising of the most acclaimed musicians in modern jazz. Featuring pianist and musical director Renee Rosnes, trumpeter Ingrid 

Jensen, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, bassist Noriko Ueda, and drummer Allison Miller. ARTEMIS conjures a powerful collective voice from this quintet of visionary bandleaders and composers.  Named after the Greek goddess, the group is distinctive not only for bringing together artists, each renowned for their own remarkable solo career; but for its multi-generational and globe-spanning line-up, with members hailing from the US, Canada, and Japan. Their Blue Note Records debut was released in September 2020.  

Al Di Meola 

A bona fide guitar hero and perennial poll-winner, Al Di Meola has been recognized internationally over the past four decades as virtuoso of the highest order. A prolific composer and prodigious six-string talent, Di Meola has amassed over 20 albums as a leader while collaborating on a dozen others with the likes of the fusion supergroup Return To Forever (with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White), the celebrated acoustic guitar trio featuring fellow virtuosos John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, and the Rite of Strings trio with bassist Stanley Clarke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. 

Garland Nelson’s Joyful Noise 

Presented by Caffè Lena   

Led by “soulist” and bandleader Garland Nelson, who was originally scheduled to make his festival debut in 2020, Joyful Noise is a spirit-lifting ensemble of musicians and singers.  The inspirational Joyful Noise Choir is made up of the blended voices of powerful, step-out soloists accompanied by a driving rhythm section creating a sound that will enter your being like a breath of pure, fresh air.  

The line-up of artists is subject to change.  


Ticketholders who kept their seats from the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, which was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be reseated in similar locations and contacted by the SPAC Box Office. SPAC Members will have early ticket access depending on membership level, beginning on May 18. Tickets for the public will be available to purchase on May 21.  

Designated pods of two will be allocated and reserved for ticket buyers in the amphitheater, while designed pods of two and four will be available on the SPAC lawn. Amphitheater tickets start at $130 per pod, which seat up to two people. Lawn tickets are available to purchase for $150 for a two-person pod, or $300 for a four-person pod. Single tickets will be extremely limited and available starting at $65 for the amphitheater and $75 for the lawn. Advance ticket purchases are strongly advised as ticket availability will be limited. If available, tickets will be on sale on the day of, but are subject to an additional fee.  


SPAC will be adhering to all mandated NYS guidelines and therefore all attendees are required to show proof of a completed vaccination no sooner than 14 days prior to the event or a negative 72-hour COVID-19 test. In addition, attendees are required to complete a health screening questionnaire and pass a mandatory temperature check prior to entry. Guests are required to wear a face mask at all times, regardless of proof of vaccination or negative test. Guests are permitted to bring up to one gallon of factory sealed water, food in a clear plastic bag, blankets (no larger than their designated pod size), chairs and personal umbrellas or clip-on umbrellas. To limit bag checks and allow for touchless entry whenever possible, coolers, beach umbrellas, tents, and tarps will not be permitted. Restrooms will be available with social distancing and enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols in place in accordance with recommended guidelines. 

Visit for more details.


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