2019 Lineup

Saratoga Performing Arts Center exterior photo

The 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will take place on Saturday June 27th and Sunday June 28th, 2020 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY USA.

Visit our 2020 Lineup page for details about the artists expected to perform at the 2020 festival!

The 2019 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival took place on Saturday June 29th and Sunday June 30th, 2019.


Saturday June 29th


  • 9:20 – 11:00 ~ George Benson
  • 7:40 – 8:50 ~ Los Van Van 50th Anniversary
  • 6:00 – 7:10 ~ Kandace Springs*
  • 4:40 – 5:40 ~ James Carter Organ Trio
  • 3:20 – 4:20 ~ Mercy Project*:  Jon Cowherd, Brian Blade, John Patitucci, Steve Cardenas
  • 2:00 – 3:00 ~ Donna Grantis*
  • 12:45 – 1:25 ~ Saratoga Springs High School Jazz Band

Charles R. Wood “Jazz Discovery” Stage (new Gazebo Stage)

  • 5:25 – 6:30 ~ Antonio Sanchez & Migration*
  • 4:00 – 5:00 ~ Lionel Loueke & Raul Midon*
  • 2:40 – 3:40 ~ Veronica Swift with The Emmet Cohen Trio*
  • 1:20 – 2:20 ~ Black Art Jazz Collective* featuring Jeremy Pelt, Wayne Escoffery, James Burton III, Xavier Davis, Vicente Archer, and Carl Allen
  • 12:00 – 1:00 ~ Joe Locke’s Subtle Disguise* with special guest Raul Midon
Sunday June 30th


  • 7:05 – 8:30 ~ Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
  • 5:20 – 6:35 ~ Norah Jones*
  • 3:40 – 4:55 ~ Django Festival All-Stars with special guests Edmar Castaneda and Grace Kelly
  • 2:20 – 3:20 ~ Joshua Redman Quartet with Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers, and Gregory Hutchinson
  • 1:00 – 2:00 ~ Joey DeFrancesco Trio* featuring Billy Hart
  • 11:45 – 12:25 ~ Shaker High School Jazz Ensemble

Charles R. Wood “Jazz Discovery” Stage (new Gazebo Stage)

  • 5:35 – 6:40 ~ Ruthie Foster*
  • 4:10 – 5:10 ~ Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom* featuring Jenny Scheinman, Carmen Staff, Kirk Knuffke, Ben Goldberg and Todd Sickafoose
  • 2:45 – 3:45 ~ Cha Wa*
  • 1:25 – 2:25 ~ Youn Sun Nah*
  • 12:05 – 1:05 ~ Joel Harrison’s Angel Band* featuring Jon Cowherd, Jaleel Shaw, Stephan Crump, Brian Blade, and others
  • 11:00 – 11:45 ~ Kansas Smitty’s House Band*

* indicates festival debut!


Help support this site, and get ready for the festival by shopping for Jazz CDs on Amazon.com.

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

102 replies on “2019 Lineup”

We are announcing the line-up on Sunday Jan 26 at spac.org, via jazz festival email blasts, and through the regional media outlets – Albany Times Union, Saratogian, etc. – DM

The New Orleans Jazz Fest lineup is out. Sometimes acts play both there and Saratoga. Some likely acts: Terrance Blanchard and E Collective, Count Basie Orchestra, David Sanborn with Randy Brecker and the John Scofield and Dave Holland Duo.

We are planning to announce the 2020 line-up on Jan 26. All info will be at spac.org.

Best wishes for the new year – DM

In addition to Tiempo Libre on Sunday, we are honoring the centennial of Dave Brubeck, who performed at the festival 13 times during his long and illustrious career.

Dave’s sons Chris (trombone/bass) and Dan (drums) will bring their multimedia show to the festival on Sunday, June 28. “The Brubeck Brothers”, which also includes Saratoga Springs’ own Chuck Lamb on piano along with Mike DeMicco on guitar, will pay tribute to Dave’s extraordinary life and career.

The Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Flex Lawn Ticket is available for only $58 now through December 31. This is a discounted lawn ticket that you can use either day. Tix available at spac.org

@Rob Bores

I LOVE Steve and have seen him numerous times. Have been quite unsure about his drawing power for the jazz festival so been a bit nervous to try to get him. DM

Here’s your closer Rob…Just have to wait til Tuesday night
Steely Dan & Steve Winwood Tour
June 30 – Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Thanks for the heads-up, Scott. We’re in CT and trying to decide which show in the northeast we’ll attend. It’s a dream double-bill!

Thanks again!


It would be nice if some big performers are booked for 2020, last few years have been a lot of has been’s from years ago. I understand that new talent has to be booked also but for the closer’s they should get some better performers and spend the extra money to have them perform. Seen tower of power recently and they were terrific, seen chick corea electric band, Bella fleck, Billy Cobhan, Just to name a few.
These washed up acts like chaka kahn who was too loud too obnoxious, then George benson who was great years ago, his guitar playing is still good but his voice is out of key and flat. His days of prime are gone. Years ago at spac jazz fest you could see several top acts on both days and the place would be packed but now the the place seems 1 third the amount of people coming due to the less known acts that are probablly are much cheaper to hire to play.

Another great show I found the sound on the lawn was not as good as in the past. I saw the Isley brothers last year and there extensive sound check gave fantastic results. Kandance Springs was amazing. It would be great to see billy cobham or lee ritinhour or fourplay perform and I always ask for Vinx. Thanks for another great show see you next year.

Also why the new umbrella line on the lawn what prompted that rule.

I liked the early start and early finish on Sunday. It would work for me on both days. I think I’m old.

@Chuck Ruthie Foster is terrific, Chuck. I’ve seen her several times, and she never mails it in. I agree that it unfortunate that she was scheduled opposite the enormously popular Norah Jones. Ruthie deserves a main stage performance. But I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Norah’s set. It was anything but boring. Not for nothin’ did the crowd demand from her a rare Freihofer’s Jazz Fest encore.

When was the last time that Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was performed twice at the same jazz festival, on the same day and at the same stage (Joel Harrison and Ruthie Foster)?

The tent in the gazebo area saved both days, from sun and heat on Saturday and from rain and sun on Sunday. This recent improvement is a winner. The sound on the main stage was often too loud making it uncomfortable for conversation even up at the top of the lawn and bleeding over to the gazebo. Three times, twice on Saturday and once on Sunday, I was able to get the staff at the side of the gazebo to radio down to the main stage to get it lowered. Ruthie Foster was BEST OF SHOW. It’s a shame so many people missed her to see the boring Norah Jones set. Several in our group managed to escape her and catch the second half of Ruthie. Joel Harrison was interesting with his covers of country and Americana. The Loueke/Midon show was to mellow for its time slot. They should have been on early before the larger crowds and the alcohol clicked in. Black Art Jazz Collective would have been a better late choice. Would like to see Kandace Springs in a more intimate setting. Veronica Swift had every thing going for her except her song selections were terrible. Thought Donna Gratis was WORST OF FEST. James Carter and Joshua Redman were excellent. Mercy Project was a snore. The high school bands were a nice touch. Youn Sun Nah was Korean Sci-Fi Opera. As always with festivals it’s about the weather and we had a great weekend.

We had a great time at the festival this year. The weather forecast was a little ominous, and I wonder if that kept some people away, but in the end the actual weather was almost ideal. It was great to see so many folks out on Sunday! It felt like the old days! I thought Josh Redman was the highlight of the festival, but it was clear that Norah Jones brought a lot of people out, and Trombone Shorty was a high-energy way to end the weekend.

I noticed some positive changes at the venue. The new video screens are a big improvement, and the free Stewart’s ice cream was a great idea (surely more appropriate for the festival than the lotto truck that used to be there). Opening the main stage with high school bands worked well, I thought.

I only wish we didn’t have to wait another year for the next one!

Last night George Benson turned out Saratoga. I can’t believe he was there 10 years ago. It seems like it was a few years ago. Looking forward to see Trombone Shorty

Looking forward to the 2019 Festival. Moved away from the Northeast about 30 years ago. It has now been more than 20 years since I last attended. I am sure that a lot has changed.

Bit of a bummer that Norah Jones and Ruthie Foster are playing at the same time. I’ve never seen Norah and Ruthie is great.

Can you bring wine in bottles? When is the soonest you can get the schedule for both days? Is there ever any list of vendors? Thanks

We are announcing set times this week but I can tell you that George will go on at approx 9:20pm on Sat night.

We are announcing set times this week but I can tell you that George will go on at approx 9:20pm on Sat night.


29 days. Unbelievable.

Just a note that Raul Midon won’t be performing as a guest with Joe Locke on Saturday due to his travel schedule. He’ll be there for his set with Lionel Loueke. Best DM

Hello Everyone – 40 days til the festival? That is crazy-talk…. Just wanted to let you know that we are, for the first time, adding two local high school big bands to the line-up. We will announce them soon and we are excited we are able to do this.

On Saturday, the Discovery Stage will start at 12 noon, and the Amphitheater will start at 12:45pm with a high school band.

On Sunday, the Discovery Stage will start at 11am, and the Amphitheater will start at 11:45am with a high school band.

We are planning to finish the festival on Sunday by 8:30pm so everyone can enjoy the headliners and still get home at a reasonable hour.

Gates open both days at 10am.

Looking forward to seeing everyone real soon.

Best DM

@DJ Jazzy Joe
Yes, there will be a full Friday program throughout town. All be announced soon but SPAC just announced a Fred Hersch solo concert at Cafe Lenna that night.

Why does time seem to be moving faster in every way except the festival getting closer? Hoping that the jazz fest Friday schedule gets announced soon (if it’s still happening) so I can make plans. Counting down the days!

I have not attended in 20 years (because of kids – now they are out of the house)
Can you still bring your own beer in? Can you bring a pop up canopy for lawn seats?

Lisa B, wagons allowed,any chair you want is allowed, along with pop up canopy and tents behind the main walk way. Can bring in all alcohol and food you want just no glass. It’s the only show at SPAC that’s has a re entry policy. parking and traffic no problem, you can actually drop your stuff of at the back entrance then go park. Good music, Good people, Good food and drink. Always a great time Don’t Miss

My husband and I are considering attending the Jazz Festival this year. However, I have a few questions….
Can you bring a wagon to carry your items into the festival? Do the chairs need to be beach type Only? Are you allowed to bring drinks(alcohol/food)? How is the traffic? Parking?

Thanks for your help..

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone – soon we’ll be celebrating Flag Day, then Father’s Day, the summer solstice and then jazzfest weekend! Public on-sale is tomorrow at 10am – spac.org/tickets

Perfect gift for the lovers in your life 😉

Best DM

I am equally fond of jazz and blues and have attended many jazz festivals at SPAC over the years. I remember seeing Dizzy (I recall he introduced a young Winton and Branford Marsalis), Miles, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, and the Jazz Messengers in the 80s and 90s. I don’t agree with all the negativity of some of the comments. I’m glad to see new jazz artists in the lineup. Give them a chance, check out their music. After all, all the former jazz greats were once new artists. I have enjoyed some of the gazebo performances as much as the main stage (Pendrito Martinez for one). I’m so excited to see Ruthie Foster in this year’s lineup. I’ve been waiting to see her perform live–she’s got such an incredible voice! Thank you for all the great jazz through the years. We are lucky to have such a great venue in Saratoga!


I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ruthie Foster twice before at an outdoor venue in Connecticut, Chuck, and I couldn’t agree more. She’s terrific. Though fundamentally blues oriented, she’s a singer with great range and enviable capacity to “read” lyrics. If anyone reading these comments is unfamiliar with her, she’s among the Discovery Stage artists I urge you to check out.

Ruthie Foster is excellent, nonetheless the decline in quality blues acts continues. Otherwise, the diversity is good and less repeater acts this year. I like the earlier Sunday ending and the earlier starting times on the main stage is an improvement on last year’s universally disliked 3:00 P.M. start time.

Danny puts together a great festival every year trying his best to accommodate many styles of music not just jazz and of course it won’t please everyone.

I would just like to know what goes into choosing artist for either stage is it budget, music style
Popularity etc

For 30 years I spend a weekend at SPAC and have seats in the Amphitheatre this is where I go to hear names in Jazz i Know – but now we get a list of performers who great performers but I have no idea why they were chosen for the main stage

Case i point Los Van Van 50th Anniversary- A Cuban Salsa Band unknown to my ears and celebrating 50 year- great but I am sure many other have not heard of them

Donna Grantis again so new I had to look her upon You tube – Hendricks type blues playing

Kandace Springs another singer from Blue Note label no less

These artist could easily been at the Discover stage

At the other stage you have a great selection of artists that should be on the main stage
especially Black Art Jazz Collective featuring Jeremy Pelt, Wayne Escoffery,
Antonio Sanchez Raul Midon Everyone that afternoon should be on the main stage

Sunday is a lot better and the Discovery stage actually introduces a lot of unknowns

To conclude the main stage should have well know performers for attendance to grow.
I love the festival but the changes and mixes over the past years are just to much for this old jazz dog to take


That’s an excellent line-up, Danny! Some stellar artists and something for everyone. I’m psyched. Thanks for your hard work.

Here we go….



George Benson
Los Van Van 50th Anniversary
Kandace Springs
James Carter Organ Trio
Mercy Project: Jon Cowherd, Brian Blade, John Patitucci, Steve Cardenas
Donna Grantis

Antonio Sanchez & Migration
Black Art Jazz Collective featuring Jeremy Pelt, Wayne Escoffery,
James Burton III, Xavier Davis, Vicente Archer & Carl Allen
Lionel Loueke & Raul Midon
Veronica Swift with The Emmet Cohen Trio
Joe Locke’s Subtle Disguise with special guest Raul Midon



Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Norah Jones
Django Festival All-Stars with special guests Edmar Castaneda & Grace Kelly
Joshua Redman Quartet with Aaron Goldberg, Reuben Rogers
& Gregory Hutchinson
Joey DeFrancesco Trio featuring Billy Hart

Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom featuring Jenny Scheinman, Carmen Staff,
Kirk Knuffke, Ben Goldberg & Todd Sickafoose
Cha Wa
Ruthie Foster
Joel Harrison’s Angel Band featuring Jon Cowherd, Jaleel Shaw, Stephan Crump, Brian Blade & others
Youn Sun Nah
Kansas Smitty’s House Band

NORAH JONES!!!!! Festival debut on Sunday, June 30.

Full festival announcement will be this Thursday.

Tix on sale Feb 15 at 10am EST at spac.org.

Best DM (not Dave Matthews)

@Delores Bennett
Nice to meet yo too Deloris,
hope we have a dry sat and sun this year, last year was like a monsoon. in all the years we have been attending, we would get an occasional shower here and there then the sun would be back out but last year on sat it started raining around 11am ish and got heavier until about 3:30, we were waiting in the car for it to stop then got tired of waiting went back to the motel waited til about 4 then headed back and went in and made the best of it. Also thought the food vendors were a bit better then the past few years back.Always nice to come back every year and get away from the city grind.Nice chatting with you and have a great time this year at the festival

Nice to meet you. I have been coming to the festival since 1986, and my husband has been to every year of the festival. We usually stay in Round Lake and have gotten to know the owners of the motel there over the years. Hope you make new memories this year.

@Delores Bennett
Yes I am a fan of Dave Mathew’s band and I read that he added summer tour dates and Saratoga springs July 12 & 13 for his band. I seen the DM and thought that would be an announcement, I am also a fan of the jazz festival, been going since 82 stayed at a friend’s bed and breakfast, Lombardi farm. Vinny the proprietor worked for spac handling the musicians contracts, he passed away a few years back, very nice family, will miss him.

I think maybe Michael thought Danny’s initials were the initials of the act, the one he was waiting to hear from!

I too miss the old days with more performances and late nights. But I disagree with almost all of the other criticism here. Not only is the lineup announced much earlier than it used to be (I remember waiting for it in the newspaper…), but now we get set times in advance and the festival actually runs on schedule! And the SPAC venue has upgraded in many ways; just last year we got the new 2nd stage and I thought it was a significant upgrade. Ticket prices have gone up, but it seems like this has happened for a lot of live music — I assume artists need to make more money on tour these days, where they used to make more on physical media sales. It’s too bad because if I was a young these days I don’t think I’d be able to afford to see as much live music as I did in my youth. But I guess it’s the economic reality of the music business these days.

If you really want to see SPAC in decline, look to their classical schedule. NYC Ballet used to have a 3 week residency; this year it is only 5 days.

Ha ha – the year that Dave Matthews plays the festival is the year I stop attending!

Come on people. It’s only 5 months ’til D-Day. Each year it gets later and later before you post your line. At least have 4 or 5 solid performers for each day and then fill in around them.

We have pushed back the announcement until Feb 1 to better coordinate with one of our headliner’s summer tour announcement plans. DM

The quality of performers have been compromised and the hours were cut last year and the prices have gone up! I have not been going for a few years until the headliners are much better than they have been the last well, since 2014. The reason people come back is because of the hang and it is a tradition but there use to be quality music for 11 or 12 hours, not just one or two at the most

The New Orleans Jazz Fest lineup is out. Occasionally there is overlap with Saratoga. Leaving out some names that Saratoga had in the recent years, notable national jazz acts are: Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort, Kamasai Washington, Jonathan Butler with Gerald Albright and Herbie Hancock. Kermit Washington’s tribute to Louis Armstrong could be good. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels with Lucinda Williams is not on the NOLA bill but is still touring. Young blues player Jarekus Singleton is in the NOLA lineup.

Hi Friends – we are announcing the jazz festival line-up on Sunday, Jan. 27. The on-sale date will sometime in early February. The amphitheater will start a bit earlier than last year but not at 12 noon. And you may have heard that SPAC was awarded a $1.5 million NYS grant to demolish and rebuild the food court and bathrooms! This will happen AFTER this summer and will be done before the 2020 festival. They are rehabilitating the ramps and the lighting this coming spring and that work will be done before this year’s festival in June.

I also want everyone to know that I am no longer going to participate in a debate about the artists. An argument about the line-up. Comparisons to yesteryear.

I have always been committed to programing the best festival possible. To give the artists a chance to be heard, to give them a platform to express themselves, to give the audience the opportunity to have a great time while expanding their musical and personal horizons. I will continue to do that at the festival and in all of the other venues I program.

I hope everyone has a healthy, fun and bountiful 2019 and I look forward to seeing you at SPAC on June 29 & 30.

Best – DM

@john E. price Jr.
My major complaint about SPAC are the video “screens”. Been going for 30 years and it’s the same ones as my first. You can’t see anything from the lawn until 8:45-9pm. With all the events at SPAC during the year, it’s way past time to upgrade them to some type of LCD/LED screen format. I think it would really enhance the lawn experience.

Regarding Howee’s comment about the food, you must be kidding. Not only has the food deteriorated, but, I suppose, to keep costs down, SPAC hires very young men and women, who have no idea what they are doing. Now, I’m sure it is good to give young people a job, but I would like to see them perform their duties with a modicum of ability. The service is outright terrible. As to the bathrooms, give me the old bathrooms and 12 hours of top performers any day. Furthermore, it has become impossible to get a close seat without being a SPAC member. Different levels of membership enable different levels of seating, and the ability to purchase tickets before others. Maybe this is fair. I don’t agree with it. Overall, SPAC has become a great disappointment, not only to me, but to many. Just look at how empty it has become. I’ll say no more.

I have to say, after 1988 (my !st), I really can’t complain honestly about SPAC. They’ve done wonders to the venue. And most of the music is on point. We rarely get to see the big names anywhere except overseas etc. They are such high demand all over the world. So, Dan again I applaud you in your effort to provide us with the “EARFOOD” you’ve been serving. You can’t please everyone. The new artist as like the OLD, need a chance to grow and show us their craft. So, maybe in another 15 yrs or so, someone will be looking for the Joey Alexander, TEN,Greg Porter. And they too will be booked.
Do what you do best, make the lot of us appreciate SPAC.

One thing. NO MORE RAIN !!!!!!!!


Ordinarily I don’t have to do much comment moderation here. But things have been getting a little chippy lately. So I thought it would be useful to provide some guidelines to help guide future discussion.

I am happy to see debate and opposing viewpoints expressed intelligently and respectfully. But personal attacks will not be tolerated. One-liners that do not advance the discussion may be moderated.

Comments associated with real names or established pseudonyms will be given more leeway than anonymous comments.

To quote WGBO DJ Michael Bourne, the five Bs of Jazz are BEBOP, BLUES, BALLADS, BRAZIL and the BIZARRE. Smooth Jazz can be squeezed into most if not all of those categories.

Is that what it is? I’ve been wondering where all the really hot jazz names are, if not at the annual jazz fests. Honestly, I don’t have to travel — or pay the big sheckels– to see small-time jazz, we have local jazz musicians I can enjoy right here. The Newport and Saratoga Jazz festivals used to mean the main forces in jazz and jazz-fusion, Marcus Miller, Gerald Veasley, Boney James, 3rd Force, George Howard, Walter Beasley, Down to the Bone, Jeff Kashiewa, etc. It’s so disappointing not to be able to find good jazz shows these days.

Danny- Thanks for addressing some of the issues in the comments section last year. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is always nice to hear what problems the producer encounters.
I remember complaining a few years ago when Pieces of a Dream played a short set and you explained it was their managers fault, nothing to do with Joey Alexander playing an encore. As you mentioned the days of 10 acts noon-midnight are long gone. You can’t compare Saratoga to New Orleans as they are completely different venues and locations. They have also gone through a lot of changes over the years to accommodate the growing crowds.
Those who have been attending since the JVC/Kool sponsored years might be forgetting the awful bathrooms and non-existent food or drink options at SPAC. Remember there was no gazebo or crafts tent back in the day either! The idea of one or two local groups performing on main stage would be a great alternative. Also you could show videos of past performers (there’s plenty online on YouTube)during the down time.
One of the many challenges of organizing the festival is that a lot of artists who are touring can fill venues for a lot more money. I see that George Benson and Steve Gadd are playing Rochester the week before Saratoga, and good seats cost $100 for each show. I hope they are in the lineup this year!

I agree, the big names are hard to come by these years. Used to be more music, better names, better food. I still go cause of tradition, but it’s not like years ago when all year you couldn’t wait till the jazz festival, now it’s like eh, okay it’s here

I have been attending this festival yearly for over 22 years. At that time it was the JVC festival and it was outstanding in every way. There were multiple top name jazz performers on both days. Over the years, and especially since the change to Freihoffer, there has been a deterioration in the quality of the performers, a decrease in the hours, from noon to midnight on both days, a yearly decline in the quality and variety of food offered and a deterioration in service to such a low point I don’t think we can reach a lower level. All of this with an increasing cost to the consumer. I continue to attend only due to tradition. I would not recommend it to anyone otherwise.

starting the festival at 3pm was disaster ! also the lineup was AWFULL if they do it this year I will be finding another festival.

No mention of anything being done about last year’s universally disliked change of starting the main stage at 3:00 P.M. Personally, I like the New Orleans model which runs the festival from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. leaving time for post mortems in the bars and restaurants of the town. Hopefully the well liked changes from last year, the tent and the 11:00 A.M. start at the gazebo, will be continued.

We are going to announce the festival line-up in late January and go on-sale in mid-February. Happy Holidays and a peaceful and healthy New Year to all!

Best DM

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