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36th Syracuse Jazz Fest Presented by Amazon

Something that has always struck me about jazz: the names. The names are so important.

I’m sure the aficionados of any musical genre will argue that this is true for classical music, or rock, even folk with its long history. But there is something about the shorthand of information that naming jazz bands will convey from one to another fan of the musical style that is unique. As jazz legend Miles Davis, and, yes, headliner at a past Syracuse Jazz Fest, has said, “I don’t want you to know who I am,” – at the same time, if a fan says “Miles Davis,” another fan will immediately catch a rhythm and a vibe that is different from Boz Scaggs, Diana Krall, Dizzy Gillespie or Jean Luc Ponty (all Syracuse Jazz Fest names). Jazz can be shared by simply naming your favorites, and yet just can’t be pinned down – which may be one reason why the Syracuse Jazz Fest has become such an incredibly popular event for not just Central New Yorkers, but for fans from far and wide who have sorely missed this event that began way back in 1981. Its five-year hiatus has been a trial for music lovers who have planned their summers around that special weekend.

And now (drum roll, flourish and brass) IT’S BACK!

Founder and Director Frank Malfitano is the driving force behind the event, and to say “force” is perhaps too weak a term for such an energy, presence, and enthusiast. The long list of top tier performers and awards the Fest has garnered would be testimony enough, but to talk with Frank about the event is an experience in itself. Of the many show sponsors and directors I’ve had the honor to speak with, I can say without doubt that Malfitano takes no back seat to anyone in terms of love of his labor. He loves the artform, loves his hometown of Syracuse and loves the chance to bring the audience the variety and talent, both new and legendary, to a city he promotes with enthusiasm.

Sheila Jordan Trio

Just to read the list of acts that have graced the stages of the Fest over the years is to get, perhaps, a definitive list of the top names in jazz across the country and around the world, not to mention the very best talent from right here in the Salt City. And it will reinforce that opening argument: what amazing diversity; at Jazz Fest, there truly is something for everyone.

This year, Jazz Fest is “Presented by Amazon,” as the newest corporation to join the Central New York community takes a bow, and will no doubt earn many friends by catching the pulse of our city, and helping to deliver one of its favorite events.

Another feature of this year’s event, to be held June 23rd, 24th and 25th, is that it returns to downtown Syracuse…for the first time in 20 years! These three days bring together the civic and artistic communities, ramped up security for your comfort, and gives all of us a chance to get out of the house and back to visiting and supporting a vibrant downtown.

Urban Knights

On Thursday opening night of Jazz Fest, fans can enjoy free entertainment as they stroll the city streets from pub to club and bar to restaurant, enjoying the food and drinks of downtown Syracuse’s many and varied eateries and venues while listening to some of the best instrumental and vocal jazz talent from the Syracuse area. And I can’t help it, but there’s that “name” thing again: reading the list of entertainment (bands are booked in 2-hour sets on the hour at 20 different clubs – see the full listing to plan your evening) is to walk through the “stars” of much of the Syracuse jazz scene. Nancy Kelly, Matt Vacanti, Deyquan Bowens, Bob Holz, Edgar Pagan, Bill DiCosimo, Dave Hanlon, Dave Solazzo, Rick Montalbano, Jeff Stockham, Melissa Gardiner, Sam Wynn, Ronnie Leigh, Jimmy Johns, Tom Brigandi…and on, and on.

Then on Friday from 4 -10:30 pm, the entertainment will move outdoors to Clinton Square. On both Friday and Saturday evenings, you’ll be treated to 4 headline acts per night, and if every year of the festival the claim is “the Fest has outdone itself with great talent!” then this year is no exception.

Because of the big name national and international acts, and over 100 Syracuse jazz artists appearing on the many stages and venues at the Fest, the Jazz Fest is more than a great weekend for fans to look forward to. It’s an event that puts Syracuse on a much larger map. Over its lifetime, the Syracuse Jazz Fest has drawn over 1 million guests to the city, and contributed an estimated $50,000,000 in economic development to the region. As one of the nation’s, and the world’s longest-running Jazz festivals, Syracuse ranks in the Top 15 nationally, and top 25 globally. That’s a lot of return on investment.

Pagan DiCosimo

But even more: it’s one of those events that helps make Syracuse a special city we’re proud to call home. See you there!

Thursday, June 23rd, Downtown Syracuse – various venues
Free Admission! No Door. No cover.

  • Ronnie Leigh

    4:00 pm – 6:00 pm:
    The Instigators (Funk ‘n’ Waffles; 307 South Clinton
    The Hot Club of Syracuse (Kitty Hoynes; 301 W. Fayette Street)
    Avenue J (Kasai Ramen; 218 Walton Street)

  • 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm:
    Exit 11 South (Weighlock Lounge; 701 East Genesee Street)
    Seth Carper Trio (Mulrooney’s; 239 West Fayette Street)
    Mark Nanni Solo (Bar & Board Charcuterie; 208 West Water Street)
    DiCosimo – Pagan Latin Jazz Ensemble (Wunderbar, 201 S. West Street)
  • 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm:
    Funky Jazz Band (Benjamin’s on Franklin;  314 South Franklin St.)
    Carol Bryant Quartet (The Gilded Club; 415 South Clinton Street)
    Julie Howard Quartet (The Tasting Room at Epicuse; 334 South Salina St.)
  • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm:
    Nancy Kelly Trio (Landmark Theatre; 362 South Salina Street)
    John Rohde Trio (Pastabilities; 311 South Franklin)
    Bob Holz & A Vision Forward (Clinton Street Pub; 127 W. Fayette Street)
    Mark Hoffmann’s Swing This! (Saltine Warrior; 214 West Water Street)
    E.S.P.  (The Corner Bar; 400 South Clinton Street)
  • 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm:
    Tamaralee Shutt (Modern Malt; 325 South Clinton Street)
    Jeff Stockham’s Jazz Horn Legacy Sextet (Press Room Pub; 220 Herald Place)
    Michael Houston & Sam Wynn (The Tasting Room at Epicuse; 334 South Salina Street)
  • 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm:
    Melissa Gardiner’s Vibe Check (The Fitz; 321 South Salina St.; Contact Ryan Benz)  Ronnie Leigh Quartet (Redfield’s; 701 East Genesee Street)
    The Jazz Mafia (King of Clubs; 404 South Clinton St)

Friday, June 24th, Clinton Square Park, Downtown Syracuse – 4:00 – 10:30 pm Free Admission!

  • Nathan Williams

    4:00 – 5:15 pm Salt City Jazz Collective

  • 5:45 – 7:00 pm Sheila Jordan Trio w/ Harvie S and Roni Ben-Hur
  • 7:30 – 8:45 pm David Sanborn Electric Band

Saturday, June 25th, Clinton Square Park, Downtown Syracuse – 4:00 – 10:30 pm Free Admission!

  • 4:00 – 5:15 pm Nathan Williams & The Zydeco Cha Cha’s
  • 5:45 – 7:00 pm The Urban Knights featuring Henry Johnson
  • 7:30 – 8:45 pm Boney James
  • 9:15 – 10:30 pm Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr (5th Dimension)
Nancy Roberts