Jazz Fest launches a free 3-day festival at clubs and bars in Syracuse (photos)

After a five-year hiatus, the free Syracuse Jazz Fest returns to downtown this weekend, with events that began Thursday and will continue through Saturday, June 25. This is the first time the festival has been held downtown since 2000.

The three-day event kicked off with local and regional artists performing at more than a dozen local venues, restaurants and bars on Thursday evening.

In a four-block area in Armory Square, musicians tested sound equipment and instruments, then began performing to appreciative crowds at 22 clubs. It wasn’t quite Bourbon Street, but downtown was brimming with positive energy.

“I’m really excited,” Jazz Fest founder and executive producer Frank Malfitano said earlier in the week. “It helps support the jazz scene and the local music scene.”

Malfitano added that he hopes visitors from outside of central New York can discover artists and businesses they wouldn’t ordinarily see.

Malifitano thinks Syracuse’s resident jazz artists deserve attention and clubs, bars and restaurants will appreciate being featured and mentioned. Both groups – pub owners and musicians – have been hit particularly hard by Covid.

Performers for the rest of the weekend will include funk band Average White Band, jazz great David Sanborn and his Electric Band, zydeco artist Nathan William and the Zydeco Cha Cha’s, and contemporary jazz saxophonist Boney James.

The festival resumes Friday at 4 p.m. See the full schedule below.

friday june 24

Clinton Square Main Stage

4 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.: The Salt City Jazz Collective

5:45 p.m. – 7 p.m.: Sheila Jordan Trio

7:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.: David Sanborn Electric Band

9:15 – 10:30 p.m.: Medium White Band (50th Anniversary Edition)

Saturday June 25

Clinton Square Main Stage

4 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.: Trio Joey DeFrancesco

5:45 p.m. – 7 p.m.: The Urban Knights, with guitarist Henry Johnson

7:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.: Boney James

9:15 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.: Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Cha’s

Ada J. Kenney