Freestyle funk and fusion plus buckets of rhythm & blues will transform the free-admission 29th annual M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest into one of the biggest parties of the summer.
Jazz impresario Frank Malfitano announced the lineup at a May 2 press conference at downtown's Crowne Plaza Hotel, where festival performers are often housed. Headliners for the June 24-25 jazz bash 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.
Chez, a trumpeter and bandleader from New Jersey turned in the most exciting set of the 2009 festival when Al's stratospheric brass work was backed by 17 enthusiastic musicians from Rochester who turned in a passionate, pulsating set.
Upstate's aspiring jazzers
Opening the 2011 festival on Friday will be City of Syracuse Department of Parks and Recreation Stan Colella All-Star Band and the All-County High School All-Star Jazz Band, led respectively by Joe Carello and Steve Frank.
Saturday's support acts include the OCC Jazz Band Meets the Steelheads, a collaboration between two college groups one from Upstate NY and a Trinidad-style steel band from Michigan. A fascinating cross-genre concept act called Jazz Guitars Meet Hendrix will spotlight hip six-stringers Sheryl Bailey and Vic Juris as they both play tribute to Jimi.
The Syracuse Peace Council's Summercrafts Fair returns for its second year at Jazz Fest to complete the festive atmosphere forged by Grazi Zazzara Jr.'s Paradise Market Food Court and Norm Schneider's Constellation Brands Wine Court. The Price Chopper Fireworks display fired up by Telstar Display Fireworks of nearby Auburn, 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.