(As seen in Summertimes 2014)
The M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest. Onondaga Community College. Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12. Free. Syracusejazzfest.com.
Founder and producer Frank Malfitano knows how to throw a Jazz Fest, especially after more than 30 years of putting the event on and hosting acts including Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie and Aretha Franklin.
This year, he’ll add to that impressive list with one of the hottest acts on the circuit, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and one of the greatest legends on the planet, B.B. King.
“He’s iconic,” Malfitano says of the King of the Blues. “He’s one of the top five household names and legendary entertainers. He’s B.B. King. You only have to say that once. Everybody knows who he is. It’s mega.”
The festival has moved both location and date: back at OCC on a new weekend intended to avoid graduation ceremonies and the Fourth of July holiday.
“We didn’t want to force people to make choices,” Malfitano explains.
The festival will also feature a solid dose of local talent, including Julia Goodwin, Nick Ziobro and Mark Doyle’s Guitar Noir. Other acts include Igor Butman & The Moscow State Jazz Orchestra featuring Fantine, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Raul Midon.
“Everything’s really big this year,” Malfitano explains.
Igor Butman and B.B. King’s groups will feature 18 pieces each, Trombone Shorty and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will feature 11 pieces and Doyle’s Guitar Noir will include 10.
“Lots of large ensembles on the stage this year,” Malfitano says. “Big and new are the themes.”
Big and new capture the headliners perfectly, as King is one of the biggest names in the music world and Shorty is bringing in the next generation of New Orleans. At 28, Shorty, brings new energy to NoLa tunes. Meanwhile, King, 88, keeps the tradition alive.
As for the annual sleeper act, Malfitano predicts Midon will be the show-stealer.
“The guy looks like Donnie Hathaway, sings like Stevie Wonder and plays guitar like Jose Feliciano,” he says. “Look out!”
The M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest.
Onondaga Community College.
Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12.