Saratoga Jazz Festival

Return to Forever takes a bow after their headline set at the Saratoga Jazz Festival
Return to Forever takes a bow after their headline set at the Saratoga Jazz Festival

The second part of my summer vacation brought us to the Saratoga Jazz Festival. This was my first trip to the event, which has become a tradition for the Hewitts and their friends. A tradition that involves far more than just watching good music, as I would soon find out.

Dave leads the drum jam
Dave leads the drum jam

Everyone buys tickets for good seats inside the amphitheater, but we also try to snag a spot on the lawn, under the pedestrian bridge that goes up to the balcony area. Getting this spot usually involves a mad dash at the moment they open the gates, but I was somehow able to avoid being drafted for the task of “running the tarp.” Once we got the spot, everyone pulled out their drums and got a huge drum circle going between acts on the main stage. Everyone around us joined in to dance and shake something, and of course the more people involved, the less cohesive the jam, but nobody seemed to mind.

As for the music that everybody came to see, the lineup did not disappoint. Return to Forever was the Saturday night headliner and they were as impressive as ever. Although, since was a shortened festival set, I would have preferred they skip the lengthy solo pieces and played a few more group songs. I would have died for a Senor Mouse.

Other highlights from Saturday included Chris Botti, Conrad Herwig’s Latin Side (seen above) and the Saxophone Summit of Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane. Sunday’s main stage highlight for me was Terence Blanchard’s haunting set of music inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans. I spent the rest of Sunday at the Garden stage, which featured tight performances by the Brubeck Brothers and the Aaron Goldberg Trio. Check out this drum solo:

I had a great time seeing all of this magnificent music and meeting some very friendly people. A much belated thank you to Paul, Lorraine, Glen, Terry, Bob, Dave and everyone else who made me feel like one of the gang. And of course to Scott and Doug for making me a part of their family tradition.

Drum Guys Dave and Mike seek shelter from a brief downpour
Drum Guys Dave and Mike
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