Jazz in the Square

Free festival transforms Salt City into Music City
Held each July in historic Clinton Square in Downtown Syracuse, Jazz in the Square is this summer’s coolest destination on a hot summer night. This year’s expanded edition of the three-day festival will take place July 26 through 28 and include Clinton and Hanover Squares as well as downtown clubs and the Jazz Central Theater. Roving musicians throughout the Armory Square district will complete the army of jazz artists who will combine to transform the Salt City into Music City for a long weekend of jazz in all its forms. Always fun and always free, every year Jazz in the Square boasts an all-star, international line-up. A total audience of 25,000 is expected.
Now in its sixth year, Jazz in the Square was created in response to overwhelming public opinion that indicated Syracuse deserved a downtown jazz festival that would boost the Salt City’s cultural scene and economy. What sets this jazz festival apart is that it is produced by a not-for-profit regional performing arts organization, the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation CNYJAF, at cnyjazz.org). By collaborating with other Downtown Syracuse supporters and destinations to serve the largest downtown footprint possible, the festival has become an anchor event for Syracuse’s cultural revival. The fun always spills into other parts of downtown, thanks to the vision of CNYJAF Executive Director Laurance Luttinger, who every year ensures that Syracuse sponsors, merchants, and vendors take part. In addition to three concert stages, Jazz in the Square boasts the Jazz Alley Restaurant Row, a Wine Court, Late Night Dance Parties at Syracuse’s chic Armory Square nightclub The Ohm Lounge, and the Hanover Square Club Crawl, which will include acts at The Coffee Pavilion, the Bull & Bear Pub and Downtown Manhattan’s.

Jazz in the Square 2007 lineup
Thursday, July 26
The performance schedule begins Thursday, July 26th at 5 p.m. with a happy hour set by The Dinosaurs, the hard-hitting eclectic Rock and Soul band made up of employees of CXTec. Then the acoustic swing of Swing This, led by local legends Mark Hoffman and Hal Casey, takes over on the J.W. Burns second stage until the 60-piece Syracuse Symphony appears at 8 p.m. for a Big Band Bash led by Grant Cooper. Emerging crooner-pianist Danny Sinoff and his trio will make an appearance with the orchestra, to give the audience a taste of what he will bring to the main stage on the final Saturday evening of the event. “Danny was our major breakout artist last year, and unfortunately his set was shortened by the weather,” said Larry Luttinger. “He is the next Harry Connick, Jr., in my humble opinion, and we’re making a major place at the table for him this year. He will blow audiences away, guaranteed. Our audience will be able to say they saw him when as his career blossoms in the future.” The evening in Clinton Square ends with another set by Swing This, lasting until 11pm. As if that weren’t enough, the Hanover Stage will be programming a full lineup of bands from 5 to 11pm anchored by Philadelphia-based band Blue Method. The first of nightly late night jams will take place at Jazz Central after the Clinton Stage shuts down, lasting until the wee hours of the morning, featuring Danny Sinoff and his sideman as hosts.

Friday July 27
Friday’s “Sunny 102” Happy Hour commences at 5pm with the infectious blues of The Fabulous Ripcords, regular weekenders at the Dinosaur Barbeque, along with a 5pm Hanover Stage set of African-tinged funk by Fredonia-based On The Sly.
The Main Stage schedule kicks off at 6:15 p.m. with an opening set by the Jesse Collins Band, led eponymously by its Syracuse expatriate and hard-hitting alto saxophonist. Jesse will bring his New York band back upstate in celebration of his first CD. On at 8:15pm is NEA Jazzmaster Phil Woods with Bret Zvacek and the entire 17-piece CNY Jazz Orchestra, fresh from their repeat performance at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Woods will play an extended set of his original compositions and arrangements.
The main stage schedule finishes with a rare East Coast festival appearance by the legendary jazz and smooth jazz flutist Hubert Laws with his own West Coast Band, featuring members of his musical family. Laws is universally respected as the world’s most versatile virtuoso of jazz and classical flute, and has collaborated throughout his 30-year recording career with hundreds of artists, from Paul McCartney to Lena Horne. Both Laws and Woods have recently made solo appearances in Syracuse in the 2006-2007 CNY Jazz Orchestra Concert Series, and these back-to-back performances represent a triumphant return for both.
The J.W. Burns second stage will feature the Latin dance music of the Mambo Inn Orchestra, an all-star septet of the best salsa musicians of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Armory Square’s chic Ohm Lounge will host the Detroit area Afro-beat band NOMO until 2am.
The funky jazz in Hanover Square continues until 11pm with sets by the tenor sax-driven Sam Kininger Band and the Boston-based Ryan Montbleau Band. They will then fan out to play late sets in Hanover Square clubs until 2am while Jazz Central heats up again with its late night jam hosted by house band led by Jesse Collins.

Saturday July 28
The final day of the festival kicks off with another 5pm Sunny 102 Happy Hour with Dinosaur Barbeque blues regulars the Gonstermachers, followed by another main stage triple bill starting at 6:30PM with a set by Reid’s Raiders, led by legendary bassist Rufus Reid, veteran of bands led by Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans. Known worldwide as an educator as well, Rufus and keyboardist Frank Puzullo will also preside over the afternoon’s Scholastic Jazz Festival, scheduled for 12 noon until 4pm on the main stage, as well as the evening’s late night jam session at Jazz Central.

Then at 8:15pm the Danny Sinoff Quartet returns to the main stage for a swinging set culled from the Great American Songbook, this time featuring selections from their most recent CD “Live At Ellington’s.” The Main Stage closes with a 10p.m. set by the top RnB saxophonist in the country, Los Angeles native Gerald Albright. The platinum-selling Albright also is a veteran of tours with Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Phil Collins and many others, as well as an actor in such shows as Melrose Place and A Different World.

The J.W. Burns Stage in Clinton Square will feature NOMO, fresh from their Ohm Lounge appearance, while The Mambo Inn Orchestra moves to the 314 S. Franklin St. Ohm Lounge in the heart of Armory Square for Latin dancing until 2am. Hanover Square lineup starts with Syracuse’s own Interstellar Funkateers at 5pm, followed by jam band sextet Dark Hollow and world percussion jam band Mecca Bodega playing until 11pm. Host of the final Jazz Central jam will be Rufus Reid and his band.

Throughout the festival, locations in Armory Square to include Starbucks, Dante, Kitty Hoynes, Pastabilities, Teddy’s,, Pascale, Clark’s Ale House and Al’s Wine and Whiskey Lounge will be stops for roving street musicians from the Hanover Square lineup.

Rating: 2.5/5 (11 votes cast)

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