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Jazz Fest 2024

National Grid Syracuse International Jazz Fest 2024 38th Annual Edition! 

You’ve heard the old joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

James Carter

Well, in the case of the National Grid Syracuse International Jazz Fest, the question might be: How do you stage an awesome event every year for 38 years and keep it exciting? Yes, practice is ONE answer. But listening to organizer and Executive Director of Syracuse Jazz Fest Productions, Inc. Frank Malfitano talk about this one-of-a-kind musical extravaganza, I’d have to say: organize with excellence, aim for the stars (literally!), and LOVE what you do!

Malfitano offered me one of his themes for this year’s fest: expansion. “The festival has grown incrementally in the last three years since returning to the city,” he told me. “It started out as a modest 3-day festival in year one, and has expanded to five days, including three nights on the Amazon Stage in Clinton Square. And each year it’s become more international in terms of programming. Our goal is expand even further as we head toward our 40-year anniversary in 2026!”

Malfitano explained that the goal is naturally to make jazz fest great every year, and to raise the bar each year. “Jazz Fest is back – the comeback is complete. Now it’s time to capitalize on that – to offer new, more, better.” 

Gino Vannelli

As testimony to that, this year West Genesee Street will be closed for the festival, effectively expanding the footprint of the Clinton Square area to allow for the BIG audience that’s building!

Malfitano also interprets his job to put on the best possible show not just for the sake of the audience and his own talented legacy, but “it’s a showcase for our visitors and region,” he explains. “Since COVID, we’ve all had several years out of the ordinary. It’s important to get people coming back to our city, to the center of cultural activity in our city. We hope to play a role in that, showing off the city, its dining establishments, clubs, taverns, and ability to put on a great event with incredible music.”

And Malfitano’s dedication to bringing people together in Syracuse to share a night (or five!) of music isn’t just about getting people out and about again. “It’s the together part we want to achieve,” he explains. Malfitano stresses that while jazz is certainly a popular, distinctly American, and for many highly specialized art form, his aim is to bring as much cross-over style to the event as possible. “Take the O’Jays,” he says. “With 150 million records sold, several number one hits, this is a name everyone will recognize. We’ve got many names on our lineup that offer international presence, groups that everyone, every age, every style, will recognize. We want this event to appeal to everyone!”

Casa LucaMarco
Las Vegas Nevada
April 27 2012
Photos By Denise Truscello

Another feature of Jazz Fest that is attractive is that it’s both a big stage event, AND a small, intimate club event. You’ve got the best of both worlds! Some people like their jazz in intimate settings; others like the idea of a big stage and a big crowd. “If clubs are your thing,” Malfitano says, “join us on opening night and stop in at any one of several venues. If you like the big outdoor concert venue, we’ve got you covered there, too.”

As the creator of Jazz Fest, and a genuine, long-time fan of the musical art form, Malfitano has a personal goal to bring the best of a generation of artists he’d like a new generation of listeners to see, while those performers are still at the top of their skills. “What an experience for a high school or college age kid to experience something like the O’Jays, or Kenny G,” he says. “Even though some of these performers are from their parents’ generation, they’re still knocking it out of the park – vital, energizing, exciting.”

Still another thread running through this year’s lineup is the amazing women featured. “There’s a tendency to think of women in music as vocalists. And we’ve got some really big names and big talents. But it’s more than that,” Malfitano explains. “A lot of women are fronting groups this year – many women who play instruments, and play them wonderfully, as WELL as sing. And here’s a chance to see some of the very best women jazz artists, MUSICAL artists, in the business.”

He goes on to detail a few.

Freda Payne

Gunhild Carling is a Swedish jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist. She is well known for playing the trombone, but also plays bagpipes, trumpet, recorder, string instruments (such as banjo, ukulele and harp), and will often showcase all of her skills in one song, sometimes casually breaking into a tap dance or singing.

Freda Payne (who this year offers a big band tribute to Ella Fitzgerald) recorded the smash hit “Band of Gold” in 1970, the song becoming an instant pop smash reaching #3 in the US and #1 in the UK for six consecutive weeks; it also gave Payne her first gold record. Global sales were estimated at two million.

Cat Russell

Catherine Russell is a native New Yorker, born into musical royalty. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was a legendary pianist/composer/bandleader, and Louis Armstrong’s long-time musical director. Her mother, the late Carline Ray, was a pioneering vocalist/guitarist/bassist who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Sy Oliver.

Jane Bunnett, a flutist, saxophone player and pianist, started out some years ago on a project to record and mentor young Cuban female musicians. The result was “Maqueque,” one of the top groups on the North American jazz scene, embracing and showcasing the rhythms and culture of Cuba.

TheMavericks Credit-DavidMcClister

So, now you know: how do you ENJOY a great music festival in Syracuse? Make your plans now, circle your calendar from June 26–30, and come out for Syracuse Jazz Fest 2024!

  • Wednesday, June 26 – Sunday, June 30, 2024
  • 21 locations downtown and on the Amazon Stage in Clinton Square
  • 5pm-10pm
  • Free Admission!


  • The O’Jays
  • Kenny G
  • The Mavericks
  • Gino Vannelli
  • James Carter
  • Bill O’Connell’s Latin Jazz All Stars
  • Catherine Russell
  • Freda Payne
  • Gunhild Carling
  • Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
  • Ralph Lalama
  • Marissa Mulder
  • Joe Magnarelli
  • McKinley James
  • Akiko Tsuruga
  • Wayne Tucker



  • Amazon 
  • Empower Federal Credit Union
  • NewsChannel 9
  • CNY Business Journal
  • Beak & Skiff
  • CNY Arts
  • CNY Family Care
  • CNY Latino
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Excellus Blue Cross
  • i Heart Radio
  • JMA Wireless
  • Onondaga County
  • Price Chopper Market 32
  • RAV Properties
  • Nascentia Health Options
  • NYS Music
  • Project C / National Grid
  • ReDev CNY
  • Residence Inn by Marriott
  • State of NY
  • Syracuse University Hendricks Chapel
  • Syracuse University
  • Table Hopping
  • Upstate Printing Inc.
  • Visit Syracuse
  • WCNY
Nancy Roberts