2020 Cancelled

Saratoga Performing Arts Center exterior photo

Sadly, the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival has been cancelled.

The 2021 festival is happening Saturday June 26th and Sunday June 27th, 2021 live and in-person at SPAC! Please see the 2021 lineup page for details.

The 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival was scheduled to take place on Saturday June 27th and Sunday June 28th, 2020 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY USA. The cancellation was announced on Monday May 4th 2020.

For posterity, this was the expected lineup for the festival.

Saturday Amphitheater (12:45 pm start)
  • Nile Rodgers & CHIC
  • Cassandra Wilson
  • Issac Delgado & His Afro Cuban Big Band
  • Ozmosys featuring Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Linley Marthe & Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Fly Higher: Charlie Parker @ 100 featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa, Terri Lyne Carrington, Charenée Wade, Adam O’Farrill, Kris Davis, Larry Grenadier & Kassa Overall
  • Amina Figarova Sextet plus Strings
  • Student Ensemble
Saturday Gazebo (11 am start)
  • Little Freddie King
  • Matt Wilson’s Honey & Salt with Dawn Thomson, Nadje Noordhuis, Jeff Lederer & Martin Wind
  • Javon Jackson Quartet featuring Jimmy Cobb
  • Connie Han Trio
  • Emmaline
Sunday Amphitheater (11:45 am start)
  • Kool & The Gang
  • Taj Mahal
  • The Brubeck Brothers Celebrate Dave Brubeck’s Centennial with Chris Brubeck, Dan Brubeck, Mike DeMicco & Chuck Lamb
  • Eliane Elias
  • Matthew Whitaker
  • Student Ensemble
Sunday Gazebo (11 am start)
  • Kurt Elling & Danilo Perez Duo
  • Ranky Tanky
  • Tiempo Libre
  • Carolyn Wonderland
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis featuring Camila Meza, Scott Robinson, Jorge Roeder & Eric Doob
  • Caffé Lena Presents Joyful Noise

You can 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.

50 replies on “2020 Cancelled”

Now that the 2021 festival is officially confirmed, I have created a new page for the 2021 festival: https://jazzfest.louthompson.com/2021-lineup

In the spirit of moving on from the disappointment of the 2020 cancellation, and looking forward to the return of live jazz at SPAC in 2021, let us continue the discussion about 2021 on its new page.

2021 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival – June 26 & 27
In honor of International Jazz Day, we are excited to share that our Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival will return on June 26-27 for our first LIVE jazz performances since the pandemic hit. We can’t wait to reunite with you on SPAC’s beautiful grounds for two days of incredible music!

Our exciting lineup of artists along with ticketing details will be announced soon, but in the meantime, we wanted to let you know what to expect at the Festival as you make your summer plans.

This summer, “The Hang” will look a little bit different due to COVID-19 safety guidelines and regulations that SPAC will be adhering to, as mandated by NY State:
All performances will take place in the amphitheater on Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27 from 12pm-6pm. The Discovery Stage will not be available this year due to health and safety concerns.
The amphitheater and lawn will be operating at 20% capacity, with all seating in socially-distanced pods of 1, 2 or 4 people.
All attendees must provide proof of a completed vaccination (no sooner than 14 days prior to an event) or proof of a negative 72-hour COVID-19 Test.
All attendees must complete a health screening questionnaire and pass a mandatory temperature check prior to entry.
All attendees must maintain social distancing in the venue and wear a mask at all times (regardless of vaccination or a negative test), unless you are consuming food or beverage, seated in your pod.



We will be announcing the bands and ticket sale info sometime next week or early the following week. There will be 4 bands each only in amphitheater. 12-6pm

Best Danny

Hi Friends – I posted today on the festival Facebook Fan page a little about this coming June. While we are not confident we will be allowed (and society won’t be “ready”) to have the festival as we know it, we are working on a number of different ideas for the final weekend in June. We have to send a proposal to NYS Dept of Health and the Governor’s office and asking them to give us clear guidance by early April. We are hoping to do “something” at SPAC and we will keep everyone updated as soon as we are able to. All my best – DM

Missing the festival, hopeful something can happen! Can’t wait till things get back to “normal” so we can all be back together again!

Please be aware that a scaled back weekend will likely cause a lot of out of town attendees to not attend. The major cost of the weekend for us is three hotel nights plus travel expenses. If the full event is not held it may not be sensible to spend this amount of money for a lesser event.

I’ve noticed that the SPAC calendar is free the weekends of 9/11-9/12 and 9/18-9/19. Further, the racing season is scheduled to end on 9/6. Is it possible to postpone Jazz Fest to one of those weekends?

Those dates are being held by Live Nation. We are definitely planning something for June 26-27. We are announcing the initial framework sometime next week. Best DM

Here’s to the sad passing of Chick Corea who according to my somewhat incomplete records played the festival in 1978, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2016.

Looking through some of my drum parts today I came across a blast from the paste, tried to copy and paste it so the old timers from the 70’s could go down memory lane. The item is a Kool Jazz Festival pin black in color with white print which I could copy and paste it but….

Hey everyone – Hope you are all safe and healthy and hanging in there. How crazy is this? I lost my mom to cancer in early August. Doubly rough during the pandemic but I was glad to have so much time to be with her too.

We are hoping for June 2021 and will keep you posted.

If you’re inclined, check out the Jazz for America show I co-produced on Thursday, 10/15 at 7pm EST. It’s a fundraiser for the Biden for President Victory Fund and features guitarist John Scofield; singer Jazzmeia Horn; saxophonists Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Melissa Aldana and Miguel Zenón; and bassists John Patitucci, Christian McBride and Rashaan Carter, drummers Jeff “Tain” Watts and Eric Harland; harpist Brandee Younger; trumpeter Sean Jones; and pianists Fred Hersch, Keith Major and music director Aaron Goldberg. Plus virtual co-hosts Dee Dee Bridgewater, the vocalist and NEA Jazz Master, and Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer also known as the husband of Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris. Filmed at the City Winery Hudson Valley.

7pm EST

All my best – DM

Hi Friends – I hope you enjoyed our “Stay Home Sessions” this weekend. If you missed any of them or want to watch again, all three shows will be at youtube.com/caffelena through July 19. And you can still buy a commemorative festival t-shirt through July 19 too. All the money is being donated to the Equal Justice Initiative organization. Hope we will all be together next June 26-27. All my best – DM

We created an official Facebook Group page for the festival called Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Fans


And we are announcing our “fest at home” sessions later today or tomorrow. This will be three programs, at 8pm each night, on June 26, 27 & 28 from the Caffe Lena YouTube page. More info will be posted here once the press release goes out.

Much love and good health to everyone. Best DM

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Announces “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions” in Partnership with Caffè Lena, June 26-28


Saratoga Springs, NY (June 11, 2020) – Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Absolutely Live Entertainment, in partnership with Caffè Lena announce “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions,” presented in lieu of the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, previously cancelled by SPAC due to health and safety concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Headlined by national artists JON BATISTE, BÉLA FLECK and ABIGAIL WASHBURN, and PEDRITO MARTINEZ, Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions will also feature acclaimed local musicians CHUCK LAMB & JORGE GOMEZ, GARLAND NELSON’s “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” and the SKIDMORE JAZZ INSTITUTE ALUMNI TRIO. Slated for June 26, 27 and 28 at 8 p.m., the series of streamed concerts will feature produced videos from the national artists alongside performances from Lena’s stage from beloved local ensembles. The festival will be free to experience and hosted through Caffè Lena’s “Stay Home Sessions” YouTube platform.

“Freihofer’s has been a generous and steadfast supporter of Jazz Fest for the last 23 years. When presented with the possibility of creating a Virtual Jazz Fest, they didn’t miss a beat – pledging to support our efforts to bring great musicians and audience together despite the challenges of COVID-19. Being able to create connection for jazz lovers – and support both national and local musicians, the latter performing from Caffe Lena — is a privilege,” says Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Kicking-off the virtual festival on Friday, June 26 will be a Cuban-themed evening featuring Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival favorite and Grammy®-nominated, Havana-born music sensation Pedrito Martinez. Martinez will be preceded by Chuck Lamb and Jorge Gomez performing original music exclusive to the event. On Saturday, June 27, fifteen-time Grammy®-winning banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck together with his wife — singer, songwriter and banjo player, Abigail Washburn — will headline the jazz and folk inspired event, preceded by the Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio, co-presented by the Skidmore Jazz Institute. Closing out the three-day festival on Sunday, June 28 will be globally celebrated musician, bandleader and television personality, Jon Batiste. Garland Nelson’s energetic “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” open with a program celebrating the soulful sounds of Detroit.

“Caffè Lena and SPAC have gotten very creative to keep delivering music during the shutdown. Fortunately for musicians and fans, we’re thinking outside the box to save Jazz Fest this year. I’ve never seen so much cooperation among all players in the music industry. 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. It keeps us inspired and determined to get through this crisis together,” says Sarah Craig, Executive Director of Caffè Lena.

“Our ‘stay at home sessions’ is a three-night love letter to our longtime festival devotees and a snapshot of the diversity of artistry and music typically heard at the festival. Making this free to the public yet a fundraiser for the Equal Justice Initiative and the crucial work they are doing to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenge racial and economic injustice, and to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society is an important part of this presentation that we hope people will support,” says Danny Melnick, President of Absolutely Live Entertainment.

Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions was created as a way to bring the community and Jazz Fest fans together in a celebration of great jazz music following the cancellation of the in-person Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, scheduled for the same weekend. To commemorate the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, SPAC has also created a t-shirt featuring original artwork by Skidmore College student Isa Hage. All proceeds will support the Equal Justice Initiative. Visit SPAC.org for more details.

For safety and social distancing purposes, Caffè Lena will remain closed to everyone except essential personnel and musicians. Content will be pre-recorded adhering to CDC guidelines.



Pedrito Martinez
Four-time Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival headliner, and Grammy®-nominated, Havana-born music sensation, Pedrito Martinez, will share his irresistible and seductive Afro-Cuban grooves to kick-off the festival. Widely regarded as the one of the world’s leading percussionists, he has recorded or performed with Eric Clapton, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Chucho Valdez, and Sting.

Chuck Lamb & Jorge Gomez
Chuck Lamb and Jorge Gomez will come together to share their original “Cuban meets Jazz Fusion” music, which they will feature on their new recording project, currently underway. The performance will include pre-recorded percussion and horn tracks from this project — some with members of Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre.

Chuck Lamb, as a pianist and composer, has been with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet for 14 years and has performed with the Quartet as well as with his own groups at numerous renowned venues around the world. Lamb was scheduled to perform at the festival with The Brubeck Brothers in celebration of Dave Brubeck’s Centennial.

Jorge Gomez is the bandleader and keyboard/pianist of three-time Grammy®-nominated Afro-Caribbean music group Tiempo Libre, which was slated to have its festival debut this June.


Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Known to Saratoga audiences for his four festival appearances, fifteen-time Grammy® Award-winning banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck,has been nominated in more categories than any other artist in Grammy history, and remains a powerfully creative force globally in bluegrass, jazz, classical pop, rock and world beat. Fleck as a duo with his wife — singer, songwriter and banjo player, Abigail Washburn — has recorded two albums including a self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy® for Best Folk Album and Echo in the Valley, which DOWNBEATpraised as “something close to miraculous.”

Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio
The Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni Trio is comprised of Brian Halliday (piano, recent graduate of the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase College), Samuel Smith (bass, Berklee College graduate, currently pursuing his Masters degree at Bard College), and Quinton Cain (drums, pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at Manhattan School of Music). Members of the trio proudly hail from New York State and have attended the Skidmore Jazz Institute summer program as part of their musical training. The Skidmore Jazz Institute has been called the “non-pareil destination for attentive and engaged instruction in the improviser’s art” by DOWNBEAT. The Institute, now in its 33rd year, has successfully helped to launch the music careers of past festival headliners Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Jon Batiste, among others.


Jon Batiste
Jon Batiste, who has performed at the festival three times and most recently in 2018, is a globally celebrated musician, educator, bandleader and television personality, recognized for his originality, jaw-dropping talent and dapper sense of style. Jon transitions from commanding the piano with virtuosic skill, to soulfully crooning, to wailing on the “harmonaboard” (a kind of harmonica and keyboard), to curating unique “social music” experiences all over the world. The Forbes “30 under 30” honoree balances a demanding performance schedule with his role as bandleader for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Artistic Director At Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, as well as public speaking engagements, master classes and occasional acting gigs and his signature impromptu ‘love riot’ street parade.

Garland Nelson’s “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble”
Led by “soulist” and bandleader Garland Nelson, who was originally scheduled to make his festival debut with his Joyful Noise gospel program, “Reflections: A Motown Tribute Ensemble” will bring an ensemble of fronting singers from top capital region bands. “Reflection” pays tribute to the golden age of Soul Music from Motown, Staxx Records, Chess Records, and Philadelphia International.

Generous support for “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest at Home Sessions” has been provided by Freihofer’s, National Grid, Times Union, and Tom and Anne Gaughan. For more information about the festival, visit SPAC.org.


Founded in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein, Freihofer’s Saratoga JazzFestival is one of the most prestigious and iconic jazz festivals in North America. Initially founded as “the Newport Jazz Festival at Saratoga” the weekend event was renamed Freihofer’s Saratoga JazzFestival in 1998. The festival has been produced in partnership with Absolutely Live Entertainment since 2009. With an inside seating capacity of 5,200, and lawn seating of 20,000, the two-day, two-stage festival continues to be one of the largest jazz music events in North America, beloved by audiences for both the remarkable annual line-up of international jazz talent and the spectacular setting at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the idyllic Saratoga Spa State Park.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), located in the historic resort town of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, is one of America’s most prestigious summer festivals. Its tranquil setting in a 2,400-acre park preserve surrounded by hiking trails, geysers, and natural mineral springs draws vacation crowds and arts connoisseurs each year for immersive experiences of performances by resident companies New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, Opera Saratoga, and concerts by Live Nation. SPAC also hosts the annual Saratoga Wine and Food Festival in addition to imaginative programming such as the popular “SPAC on Stage” series and Caffè Lena @ SPAC.

SPAC is a 501c3 charitable organization. Donations and proceeds from fundraising events benefit the Center’s children’s education programs and support the vibrancy of its classical season. For more information visit spac.org.

Jazz Festival Cancellation announcement. –

Dear friends and fellow lovers of Jazz,

Over the last few months, we have suffered the pain of loss of so many great musicians to the coronavirus. But nothing has truly prepared us for today, as we are forced to announce the cancellation of the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Fest.

Many of you have been with us since the beginning. And every year we take such great joy in seeing you reunite with friends and family, we watch as you race to your coveted spots, and we join you in communion with some of the greatest music-making in the world. Your presence and passion for our jazz festival has fueled and inspired us for the past 42 years and makes us hopeful for the years to come. But today, taking actions to ensure your health and safety, as well as that of the musicians and the community, must come first.

We look forward to reuniting with the festival family in 2021. However, your support will be critical to our ability to fully resume in the future. If you are able, please consider donating all or a portion of your tickets back to SPAC. If that is not possible, you can also keep your same tickets and seats for the 2021 festival (June 26-27, 2021); request a gift certificate; or receive a full refund.

With your support, we will donate two tickets to first responders and local health care workers for performances during our 2021 season for every ticketholder who chooses to convert all or a minimum of $25 of their ticket purchase into a tax deductible donation.

In the meanwhile, though it won’t be the same as sitting under the pines, we hope you will join us – as we partner with the legendary Caffé Lena – for a virtual jazz festival, planned for the same weekend of June 27-28. Stay tuned for more announcements on these live streamed “Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions” by keeping an eye on your email inbox, and following SPAC on social media.

With eternal gratitude for your support and your deep love of music,
Elizabeth Sobol
President & CEO, SPAC
Danny Melnick
President, Absolutely Live Entertainment

All ticketing info at spac.org

Not unexpected but still really sad, the festival will be greatly missed this year. Looking forward to 2021 already!

This is getting ridiculous. Bill Withers passed today at 81 though not of Corona. In 2018 we had that wonderful Jose James tribute to Bill.

Two late May festivals just postponed/cancelled in the last two days. Crawfish Fest in New Jersey punted to August and Del Fest in Maryland hasn’t decided on whether it is postponing or cancelling altogether. It’s becoming clearer with each day that this Corona thing isn’t going to be a matter of weeks or even a few months.

Sadly, I got an email from the Saratoga Hilton yesterday telling me that they are “temporarily suspending operations” and “will unfortunately be unable to honor [my Jazz Fest] reservation.”

If hotels in Saratoga are shutting down for the festival weekend, it is a very ominous sign for the festival…

Dan Melnick in previous comments has downplayed the size of the out of town crowd. He’s wrong. Of the morning lineup crowd that I have known over the years. Most are out of towners. Our group of ten and many others are part of group buys by local representatives which skews the numbers.

Hi George – this is news to me and quite unwelcome. None of the hotels have been in touch with us about their policies. Contrary to Chuck’s sunny disposition, I am constantly focused on the out of towners and work very hard to get folks back each year. Have no clue what will be this year. We’re gonna see how things move through April. Stay safe and healthy. I know too many people who are real sick and some who have passed already. Horrible. Best to all DM

Chuck – stop the madness. The festival audience is between 45-50% out of town folks. Has been consistently that figure for decades. I know the #s. DM

Hi George, I just spoke to a representative at the Saratoga Hilton. That email you got was wrong. It was sent out by the national office and they are trying to get new information to everybody. The hotel is indeed closed now for the month of April. They don’t know what will be for May but at the moment they are planning to be open in June and your reservation is secure. Best DM

Hi Danny, that’s great news! Thanks!

I had tried calling the hotel to verify that the email was correct, but there was no answer, so I figured they had already closed. It did seem premature to me to be planing shutdowns 3 months from now — who knows what will be going on in 3 months. Let’s hope we will all be hanging out on SPAC’s warm sunny lawn!

Hi Friends – I hope everyone is healthy and safe. I wanted to take a minute to let you know that the fabulous emerging vocalist Emmaline, who is due to perform at the festival on June 27, is doing online concerts from her apartment on Sunday, March 22.

All of the info is here:


Good luck to all, happy spring, and let’s hope we all get together again on June 27 & 28.

Bless you all – DM

Hi All – what to say? Crazy times….

We are planning to hold the festival but things could obviously change. But, for now, we are on and working on all aspects of the festival – we just chose the new t-shirt artwork, printing the brochures for mailing, processing artist contracts, etc.

Let’s hope……

Stay safe and healthy! – DM

If postponing the festival is being considered, please be aware that the racing season 7/16 to 9/7 would most likely make motels and hotels unavailable for the substantial portion (including our 10 folks) of the audience that comes from out of town for the weekend and would require us to cancel.

I used to say that music festivals were all about the weather. Now it’s weather and the corona virus. Note that the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas was cancelled purportedly by the prospect of the Corona Virus.

Hi just a question. Was wondering why there haven’t been any smooth jazz artists in recent years. Artist such as Eric Darius, Vincent Ingala, Euge Groove, etc.

The young maestro Matthew Whitaker will be featured on 60 Minutes tomorrow evening – Sun Feb 23 – and will make his Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival debut on Sunday, June 28.

Good variety, there’s soul, blues, Latin, gospel and of course jazz. The Matt Wilson thing looked a little weird on line with the music being joined by local poets.

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