Syracuse Jazz Fest is back, and it’s back downtown: Find out dates, artists and more

The Syracuse Jazz Fest returns this year after a 5 year absence and returns to downtown Clinton Square for the first time since 2000.

Notable artists for 2022 include pop/soul R&B duo Marylin McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., funk/disco band The Average White Band, saxophonist David Sanborn and his Electric Band, and zydeco artist Nathan William and the Zydecos Cha Cha’s. (See full program below).

“These are the…guys and gals who keep the music alive day after day, year after year,” said Jazz Fest Director Frank Malfitano.

It runs from Thursday, June 23 through Saturday, June 25, with the big acts Friday and Saturday on the main stage in Clinton Square. Thursday’s lineup includes many local and regional performers in downtown bars, restaurants and venues.

The Jazz Fest, which over the years has attracted artists ranging from Ray Charles, BB King and Aretha Franklin to the Mavericks and Trombone Shorty, last took place in 2017. It lost its main sponsor, M&T Bank, after event that year.

This sent Malfitano on a years-long mission to seek new sponsors for the event, which at one point was billed as the largest free jazz festival in the Northeast.

Last year he began advocating for public funding and found success this year when the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County and New York State all agreed to contribute.

“I haven’t done this in a while,” Malfitano said on Tuesday. “It’s going to be off the bench and back in the game.”

In February, the Syracuse Common Council approved spending $375,000 in federal stimulus funds to promote local festivals. He earmarked a third of the money – $125,000 – specifically to bring Syracuse Jazz Fest back downtown after a two-decade absence.

In March, the Onondaga County Legislature contributed an additional $125,000. to support the Jazz Fest. Another $150,000 for Jazz Fest made its way into New York State’s recently passed budget.

This gives this year’s festival at least $400,000 in taxpayer support. Malfitano said it takes around $500,000 a year to run the festival and attract top domestic talent. The event is organized by Syracuse Jazz Fest Productions, Inc., a nonprofit company run by Malfitano.

Malfitano announced today that Amazon has signed on as the lead private sponsor for this year’s festival. They will contribute about $150,000, confirmed Al Stirpe, district representative for the 127th Assembly.

The festival began in 1982 and has been held at locations such as Longbranch Park, Song Mountain, Clinton Square, Jamesville Beach, Onondaga Community College and other venues. Admission became free when it first moved to Clinton Square in 1991.

Jazz singer and pianist Ronnie Leigh performs during a press conference for Jazz Fest 2022 on April 19, 2022 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Syracuse.

Syracuse Jazz Festival Schedule

Thursday June 23

Set TBA schedules and queues.

Confirmed acts: Ronnie Leigh Quartet, Jeff Stockham’s Jazz Horn Legacy Sextet, Nancy Kelly Trio, Funky Jazz Band, ESP, Joe Cortini & The Jazz Mafia, Julie Howard Quartet, John Rohde Quartet, Instigators, Tamaralee Shutt, Carol Bryant Quartet, Mark Hoffmann’s Swing This!, Avenue J, DiCosimo-Pagan Latin Jazz Ensemble, Seth Carper Quartet, Michael Houston & Sam Wynn, Bob Holz & A Vision Forward, Joe Davoli & The Hot Club of Syracuse, Mark Nanni, Dick Ford, Melissa Gradiner’s Vibe Check , Exit 11 South.

Confirmed Downtown Venues: The Fitz Speakeasy, The Landmark Theatre, Kitty Hoynes, Funk ‘n’ Waffles, Pastabilities, Modern Malt, Clinton St Pub, The Gilded Club, Bar & Board Charcuterie, Saltine Warrior, Mulrooney’s, Benjamin’s on Franklin , The Tasting Room at Epicuse, Wunderbar, Press Room Pub, Weighlock Lounge.

friday june 24

Clinton Square Main Stage

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

5:45 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.: Sheila Jordan Trio

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

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

Saturday June 25

Clinton Square Main Stage

4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: Nathan Williams & The Zydeco Cha Cha’s

5:45 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.: The Urban Knights, with guitarist Henry Johnson

7:30 to 8:45 p.m.: Boney James

9:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.

Jules Struck writes about life and culture in and around Syracuse. Contact her anytime at [email protected] or on Instagram at julesstruck.journo.

David H. Henry