2012 Lineup

Saratoga Performing Arts Center exterior photo

The 2012 Festival took place on Saturday June 30th and Sunday July 1st, 2012 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY USA.


Saturday – June 30th


  • noon - 1:00: Mario Abney
  • 1:20 - 2:20: Christian McBride
  • 2:40 - 3:45: Michel Camilo with conguero Giovanni Hidalgo and bassist Charles Flores
  • 4:10 - 5:20: Mingus Big Band – celebrating the music of composer/bassist Charles Mingus
  • 5:50 - 7:00: Esperanza Spalding
  • 7:30 - 8:45: Chris Botti
  • 9:15 -10:30: Maceo Parker

Gazebo Stage

  • 12:15 - 1:15: Hailey Niswanger
  • 1:35 - 2:35: Jeremy Pelt Quintet
  • 2:55 - 3:55: Catherine Russell
  • 4:15 - 5:15: Mario Abney & The Abney Effect
  • 5:35 - 6:45: Pedrito Martinez

Sunday – July 1st


Gazebo Stage

  • 12:15 - 1:15: Edmar Castaneda
  • 1:35 - 2:35: Sachal Vasandani
  • 3:00 - 4:00: Steve Kroon Sextet
  • 4:25 - 5:25: Trio of Oz featuring Omar Hakim & Rachel Z
  • 5:45 - 6:55: Brian Mitchell Band

SPAC exterior photo on this page licensed via CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia.

64 replies on “2012 Lineup”

Greg – you didn’t find her “diva” conduct just the tiniest bit annoying? if it wasn’t for the fans wanting to see her, she would not be invited to perform!

ps – totally agree with your comments about Diana Krall. sounds like too much xanax.

You lose credibility when you praise Diana Krall’s formulaic, slow and unoriginal approach to jazz, and criticize Esperanza for her “banal patter”, whatever that means. Her music isn’t for everyone, but she is far more talented than Diana Krall. I found her set to be fantastic.

Hello Friends – we are 95% done with the booking process and we just announced our first artist, as part of SPAC’s “Building of a Season” announcement process. She is the incredibly amazing vocalist Carmen Souza, from Portugal. She will perform on the gazebo stage on Saturday, June 29. Learn more about her here: http://www.spac.org/buildingofaseason/souza.php More artists will be announced soon, including some of our headliners. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and peaceful and healthy new year. Even though the last few months have been very challenging with the storm and the tragedy in CT, we are blessed and grateful. All my best to you all – Danny Melnick

If you really want a rocking jazz concert that will bring out very happy and appreciative jazz enthusiasts, SPAC should invite: Paul Taylor; Mike Phillips; Boney James; Najee; Ronny Jordan; Dave Koz; Kim Waters; Marcus Miller; Candy Dulfur. That would be an excellent concert and worth every nickel!

Hi, Danny,

Do you know of a drummer graduating from Juilliard this year: Jimmy Macbride?? He’s from West Hartford, CT and would be great on the small stage. He surrounds himself with some of New York’s young best players. I especially enjoyed hearing him with a quartet called 4Core.



@John Gilligan

Hi John – thanks for the kind words on this past year’s festival. We are working hard on next year’s and will start to announce some artists soon. We will never be able to get Frankie or Stevie as their fees are too high for our budgets.

I am very concerned about how everyone is doing this week. We have a lot of fans from LI, NJ, NYC, etc. I have an apartment on the beach on Long Beach, LI. It is amazingly and luckily fine but the town is severely damaged and it will be take us a long while to get back to some kind or normalcy.

Please know that SPAC and Absolutely Live are thinking about all our audience members and hope everyone is OK.

All my best – Danny Melnick

I LOVED the 2012 Festival and think it was the best one I’ve seen in years. Hiromi and Chris Botti were my favorites.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider Mr. Stevie Wonder for a headline act? I’d like to see Frankie Beverly and Maze as well.
Keep up the great work!!!

@Rhonda Robinson
Lizz Wright has played Saratoga three times. Most recently last year, 2011, when she did the “Sing the Truth” set with Dianne Reeves and Angelique Kidjo. She sang on the main stage in 2005 and at the Gazebo in 2003. But it would be olay again. I love the lady vocalists.


What about having Liz Wright perform,saw her in Jamestown a few years ago, and she is truly amazing…

I wasnt a huge fan of the line up.. But I was pleasantly surprised by Trombone Shorty. His performance made it worth dealing with the heat. Cant wait til next year..

@Danny Melnick (producer)
More blues: Tedechi Trucks, Dave Alvin, Jimmy Vaughn, John Hiatt. Some African: Richard Bona, Johnny Clegg. Some Brazil: Ivan Lins, Vinicius Cantuaria. Cabaret: Any. Jazz: Patricia Barber, Dena DeRose. Good luck.

Chris Botti, Trombone Shorty and Diana Krall carried the days at the main stage. However, almost all of the acts there were good. Only one clunker, Esperanza Spalding’s weird and annoying music and banal patter were excruciating. Sad, I had enjoyed her at the Gazebo a few years ago. I didn’t spend much time at the Gazebo this year due to the heat and sun but four members of our group praised the Catherine Russell set. Hardly any blues this year but musically, it was the strongest Freihofer Fest in years. The food quality and options deteriorated a little but was not a significant factor. Thanks to all for putting on a great festival. See you next year which will be my 30th consecutive year.

To all of you who read this page and attended the 35th annual celebration — THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! We had an amazing weekend and the festival was a huge success. The biggest attendance in over 15 years. I am already making my lists for next year and appreciate all the suggestions. Stay in touch and have a wonderful, happy and healthy year! See you June 29 & 30, 2013. Best – Danny

We really enjoyed the Festival. The Big Bands were phenomenal. Mingus and Arturo O’Farill. Esperanza Spaulding’s performance was a little lackluster. I have seen her several times where she performed much better. We attended the Capitol Jazz Festival this year also and enjoyed it as well. However, SPAC is a far superior venue, the jazz fans truly appreciate the music more at SPAC and the artists play “real” Jazz !! We thoroughly enjoyed the festival again. We have attended at lease 20 Festivals over the years. How about booking Eric Alexander ? He is phenomenal and the crowd would love him ! Sonny Rollins, Joe Sample, Hiroshima would be great also !

I can’t believe the festival is 3 weeks away. We are working real hard on all the advance production work and ticket sales are very strong. We are really excited! We’re putting together our own new CD sales booth as Border’s is no longer in biz and SPAC has a new outer facade, new speakers and new video. We’ll be announcing the set times soon but I can tell you that we are closing each night with a funky dance party – Maceo Parker on Saturday and Trombone Shorty on Sunday. I saw Shorty at the Mountain Jam festival at Hunter Mountain on Sunday and he blew the place apart. Thanks to all of you and look forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Sunshine and bright skies!!! Best – Danny

I love that I found this jazz festival that is always on my Birthday Weekend. I turn 60 this year and I look and feel like 30. So blessed to enjoy friends hear jazz , eat and drink lots!!
Can’t believe my girl Esperanza is coming She is SOOOO Gifted

SPAC wants your videos!

We are collecting videos from fans about why they love the Saratoga Jazz Festival. Go to the link below and tell us why you love the Jazz Fest, a favorite memory, how long you’ve been going to the festival, who you are looking forward to and why, anything! We are creating the ultimate video mash-up that we will play on the new video screens at the festival this year.

For more information go to:


Hi Friends – If you’re in NYC this coming week, two of our returning gazebo artists are performing at Jazz @ Lincoln Center. The wonderful male vocalist, Sachal Vasandani, will be Dizzy’s club from Tuesday through Sunday. And the incredible female vocalist, Catherine Russell, will be in the Allen Room Friday & Saturday nights. Check out http://jalc.org/concerts/c_calendar09.asp for info and enjoy some great jazz as we jump into spring! All my best – Danny

For those of you in the NYC area and want a little taste of the jazz fest now, the great percussionist Steve Kroon will be leading his Latin sextet at The Jazz Standard club on Thursday, March 22. Two shows – 7:30 & 9:30pm. Great band, great food. They’ll be returning to the festival for an encore performance on Sunday, July 1.

No disrespect intended Romona. I don’t think the Capital event even comes close to Saratoga’s 35 anniversary show. Most of the big names at Capital have performed at SPAC
in the past except KC and the Sunshine Band, and I’m happy for that. Danny has put together a bill that exudes class and excitement and having no smooth act is just fine with me. There is nothing wrong with what Capital is doing but in my opinion Saratoga is “Miles” ahead!

Did anyone see the lineup for the Capital Jazz Festival in Md this June? Now that is a lineup..

[The 2012 Capital Jazz Festival takes place June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is 28 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. and 18 miles southwest of Baltimore. You may be interested in the lineup.
— edit by Admin 3/14/2012 5:24pm]

Congratulations Danny and a heartfelt thank you for the line up you put together this year. The 35th may just turn out to be one of the best ever! My biggest problem will be choosing who to miss and catching my breath stage hopping.

Hi Friends – wanted to share this with you – Hailey Niswanger, who will return to the festival and perform with her band on Saturday, June 30, recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music. She has started a kickstarter campaign in order to raise money for her next recording. The info is here: http://kck.st/wluJP5

We have had an artist change for the gazebo stage already. Sarah Morrow got a really nice offer to perform at a private event in Ohio hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and can’t make the festival. I am going to present her on the 2013 festival for sure.

So the new artist for Saturday, June 30 on the gazebo will be saxophonist Hailey Niswanger, who performed there in 2010. She recently graduated the Berklee College of Music and has a new CD coming out in April.

This is the final artist list! All of the artists on the Gazebo stage have been there within the past 8 years and we brought them back for our first ever “Encore Series” as a “thank you” as so many festival fans have asked us to ‘bring back’ some of the great gazebo artists we’ve showcased at the festival.

“Just the Yellowjackets,” PRod? Perhaps you didn’t notice that MACEO is on the bill? And Esperanza Spalding? Have you listened to The Trio of Oz? Make that the astonishingly good Trio of Oz. Rachel Z kicks ass! And what about Mario Abney, who knocked me out the last time he appeared at the fest?

You need to expand your musical horizons!

I would agree that the bill doesn’t feel complete yet. But, come on! The line-up, as it stands, is WAY more than “just the Yellowjackets” who, quite frankly, I haven’t listened to in years.

I truly hope the line up is better than last year 2011…It was a great disappointment…As I read some of the line up this coming year….I don’t think it’s that great…just the Yellowjackets …the Capital Jazz festival can give you a better way to produce…..

How about John Cocuzzi? Just saw him @ NCJF he was awesome Diana Bogart They both sing and play many Instruments!!!

I absolutely love Mingus and Spalding. She is one fantastic singer and bass player. Chris Botti is great and I expect to be ther as always since I live nearby. Saratoga jazz Rocks!!

I thought this was a JAZZ Festival?
Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Dee Dee Bridgewater are REAL Jazz Artists. I like Patti LaBelle and Stevie Wonder but they are NOT jazz artists and I’d be disappointed if they were there. Looking forward to a great festival!

Herbie Hancock would be outrageous, George Duke, Phil Perry also rocks. Spanish Harlem Orchestra was hot a few years ago they would be great to return. Return to forever would be fly. Dee Dee Bridgewater can flat out sing.

Thanks for the heads-up on the lineup ! As 30 year veterans of this awesome event, we are looking forward to our annual summer kick-off. it’s nice to know that the musicians onboard so far are looking fabulous.

Milo z (NYC Blues/Funk/Jazz) would tear it up at the Gazebo. They have gigged at the Parting Glass Pub.

Ronny Jordan cancelled one year, but would be GREAT

I had the chance to see Spyro Gyra and Jeff Lorber Fusion recently. Both would be a great addition to the lineup.

BRING BACK GLADYS! SHE WAS SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And i agree with the sonny rollins suggestion! What are you waiting for saratoga????? and p.s. last year’s lineup was terrible. we are expecting bigger and better things this year!

Roy Ayers would be a great headliner! Also, I think KJ Denhert who has been most recently at the 55 Bar in NYC and at Smoke would be a great act for the gazebo. This will be my 25th year, my husband’s 24th, our 18-year old daughter’s nineteenth year and my 13-year-old daughter’s fourteenth year. They love love love the festival , and Saratoga has become a summer home for a family from Pennsylvania. You do a great job. Thank you.

The festival will certainly include some major vocalists, soul artists, Latin, blues and more. We are basically done booking the festival and announcing a little bit each week. Full line-up will be announced in mid to late February. I am confident it will blow everyone away.

As any veteran of the festival knows, this lineup is far from complete! I appreciate that they announce things this far in advance, even though the lineup isn’t filled out yet, compared to the old way of revealing the lineup in its entirety later in the year. I strongly suspect that vocalists will be added to the lineup as more artists are announced.

Romona :
no vocalist as of yet are on the venue..

apparently they have no clue how to book artist and are not listening to any suggestions. no vocalist as of yet are on the venue..


Randy Crawford is also another on my list of favorites !!!!

I would LOVE to see Sonny Rollins. This will be my 10th straight year and he has yet to appear on the lineup. Lets get him before its to late.

The Boston Crew always enjoy the festival. We would like to see Randy Crawford and/or Pieces of a Dream. See you there.