Syracuse Jazz Fest Artistic Director Frank Malfitano mourned Scott-Heron's passing.
"We've lost a true original," Malfitano said. "We've lost an irreplaceable genius and a singular voice in the ongoing movement for social justice. He was a political and poetic artist who ranks alongside Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Pete Seeger, Richie Havens and Bob Dylan."
The Syracuse impresario said Scott-Heron's death underscores how important it is that Jazz Fest presents such artists.
"Last June, prior to Boz Scagg's closing performance on Saturday, more than 25,000 people got to witness, see and hear the genius of Gil Scott-Heron on the Jazz Fest's main stage," Malfitano recalled. "Most of the festival's younger audience members, who had never had an opportunity to see Gil in his early-80s heyday, got to see this genius here while he was still vital, musically, politically and artistically. For everyone at the festival, it was and will forever remain a singular honor, one of the proudest moments in the festival's three-decade history of presenting artists who matter."
Anticipating Jazz Fest
Headliners for the 29th annual M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest on June 24 and 25 at Onondaga Community College include Felix Cavaliere & The New Rascals, the Average White Band and the Robert Cray Band on Friday and the Brothers of Funk with Al Chez and Return to Forever IV with Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty on Saturday.
The Price Chopper Fireworks display fired up by Telstar Display Fireworks climaxes Jazz Fest at 11 p.m. June 25. Over the festival's two days, convenient parking on the OCC campus is available for $5 per vehicle; syracusejazzfest.com.
Mags & Murphy in Rochester
Meanwhile, the nine-day Rochester International Jazz Festival will present bop vocalist Mark Murphy, a Fulton native, on its opening night, June 10, in addition to singer Natalie Cole, former Tonight Show guitarist-bandleader Kevin Eubanks and piano great Cedar Walton.
Trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, a Syracuse native now active on the NYC scene, plays there June 13, and the CNY Jazz Orchestra takes the Jazz Street Stage the next night. Teenage alto sax sensation Grace Kelly leads a quintet at the festival June 15, and pianist Kenny Barron, who came to prominence backing Stan Getz, fronts a trio June 17; rochesterjazz.com.
Big difference between the Flower City and Salt City festivals:
All the performances at the Syracuse Jazz Fest are free!