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Big Summer, Big Jazz

June 21st. The longest day of the year. Leave it to Frank Malfitano to fill that day with the start of a Jazz Festival.

That’s right folks: summer’s on the way and so is the 2023 National Grid Jazz Fest. Thanks to the masterminding effort and incredible tenacity of Malfitano, the precious gift of jazz returns to the city. Admission is free to the public with 5 days of jazz adventure; including some of the world’s most influential jazz artists, right along with the abundance of Central New York’s finest. 

Legendary keyboardist and NEA Jazz Master and 14-time Grammy winner Herbie Hancock will join legendary songstress, 7-time Grammy winner and 2022 Kennedy Center Honoree, Gladys Knight to co-headline the 37th edition of the National Grid Jazz Fest in Syracuse, NY from June 21 to 25.

In addition, 10 other national and international touring and recording artists will appear at the 2023 festival, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at Hanover and Clinton Squares, and on Wednesday evening in clubs throughout the downtown entertainment district. Groups include Spyro Gyra, Tower of Power, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, Tuba Skinny, Jofce DiCamillo, Nancy Kelly and Marissa Mulder.

Support for the Syracuse Jazziest is provided by a Market New York grant from I LOVE NY/ New York State’s Division of Tourism through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. According to festival organizers and NY State Assemblyman Al Stirpe, funding will be used to engage in the largest major statewide marketing campaign in Jazz Fest history, with the goal of boosting attendance and regional tourism. Stirpe said I LOVE NY’s support is a game changer that will help provide long-term sustainability for the festival.

Wednesday evening, June 21st, on Price Chopper/Market 32 Opening Night, the festival will feature 24 indoor and outdoor club performances at two dozen downtown clubs, bars and restaurants featuring the Syracuse region’s top jazz artists from 4:00 pm to 11:00 pm. The Late Night New York Band featuring bassist Tom Brigandi, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and saxophonist Eric Alexander heads the list of the Syracuse area’s top jazz groups, along with Hall of Fame vocalist, Ronnie Leigh.

Thursday evening, June 22nd, on the Visit Syracuse Stage at Hanover Square, will feature two performances from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm beginning with Harri Stojka & Acoustic Drive from Vienna, Austria. They will be followed by an All-Star Soul Jazz ensemble called Something Else!, featuring jazz legends Vincent Herring, James Carter, Randy Brecker, Paul Bolleback, Dave Kikoski, Jeff Tain Watts and Essiet Essiet.

The 2023 festival will close out on Sunday, June 25th on the campus of Syracuse University at Hendricks Chapel with a Jazz Fest-Ending Gospel Concert and Celebration. In addition, The Syracuse University Faculty Jazz Ensemble and The Syracuse University Student Jazz Ensemble will also be performing during this year’s Jazz Fest.

Admission to all 2023 National Grid Jazz Fest events, concerts and performances is free and open to the public. The festival’s free admission policy is made possible through the generosity of area Corporations providing major corporate underwriting, and public sector grants from New York State and Onondaga County. The complete list of 2023 Jazz Fest stakeholders includes National Grid, Onondaga County, Amazon, I LOVE NY, Syracuse University, NYS Empire State Development, Price Chopper/Market 32 Supermarkets, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, CNY Family Care, and Visit Syracuse.

Price Chopper/Market 32 Opening Night

Wednesday, June 21

More than two dozen performances by Syracuse-area jazz artists and national artists with ties to Syracuse will take place throughout Downtown Syracuse’s Downtown Entertainment District between 4:00 pm and 11:00 pm in staggered two-hour blocks at each participating venue. Shows at each venue will either run from 4-6 pm, or 5-7 pm, or 6-8 pm, or 7-9 pm, or 8-10 pm, or 9-11 pm. Which venues specific artists, bands and groups will perform at is TBD at this time and will be announced at a later date.

2023 Artists Scheduled to Appear:

Late Night New York Band featuring Eric Alexander, Joe Magnarelli, Tom Brigandi, Marissa Mulder Duo, Ronnie Leigh Quintet, Michael Houston / Sam Wynn Project, Vibe Check featuring Melissa Gardiner, Dayquan Bowens & Kenyatta King, Longwood Jazz Project, Bob Holz and A Vision Forward, Nancy Kelly, Joyce DiCamillo Trio, E.S.P. Jazz Group, Funky Jazz Band featuring Dave Hanlon, Ron France, Brian Scherer, Jim O’Mahoney & Ed Vivenzio, The Jazz Mafia, The Instigators, Mark Doyle & Guitar Noir, Julie Howard Quartet, Tamaralee Shutt & The Matthew Rockwell Band, The Hot Club of Syracuse, The Frank Grosso Quartet, Julie & Rick Montalbano Trio, John Rode Trio, Mark Hoffmann & Swing This!, Monk Rowe and The Five Families Ensemble, Quatro, The Jeff Martin Trio, Tom Witkowski & The JT Hall Jazz Consort.

2023 Participating Downtown Venues:

Mulrooney’s     Benjamin’s On Franklin     Oh My Darling     The Fitz

Board & Bar Charcuterie     Funk & Waffles     Tasting Room at Epicuse

Kitty Hoyne’s     The Weighlock Lounge     Al’s Wine & Whiskey Lounge

Pastabilities     The Gilded Club     Kasai     Taphouse on Walton

Salt City Market     Eleven Waters     PRIME Steak House     210 Teas

Maxwells     Jamaica Cuse     Orbis Lounge     Saltine Warrior

Modern Malt     National Grid Auditorium

For full details, visit http://www.syracusejazzfest.com/

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.