2-band day fits for Jazz Fest on a holiday weekend

The M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest took a different role in my life this holiday weekend.

Through more than two decades I’ve stuck a pad and pen in my pocket, hung a VIP-seating pass around my neck and made my way to wherever founder and executive director Frank Malfitano staged the fantastic event. For the bulk of the time my opinions were needed for the big daily. A few years after that I wrote for other media around town.

Saturday I went up to the hills of Onondaga Community College with my dear wife Karen for no other reason than to enjoy two bands on this busy holiday weekend. We packed our bags-in-a-chair and got to stake out ground, food truck dinner and relaxation.

A beautiful day on campus.

A beautiful day on campus.

The hills weren’t full yet, but with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald as the end-of-the-evening headliner, they were filling fast.

We’d be packed up on gone by his smooth rock pop set.

A vocal tribute combining local singers Ronnie Leigh, Nancy Kelly and the New York Voices for jazz star Mark Murphy, who passed away in October, was the first act I wanted to see. Malfitano backed them with many great musicians, including New York City mainstay Randy Brecker and local star Joe Carello. It was an appropriate mash-up. Murphy was born in Syracuse and grew up in nearby Fulton before going on to worldwide fame.

Hover over a gallery photo for a description. Click on an image for an enlarged slide show.

I still had time to use my iPhone 6 to capture the mood around us.

And we headed to the food truck circle, too.

We both settled on Ponchito’s, the truck from the joint just up the road from the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood. Two beef tacos for Karen, a beef quesadilla for me, smothered in fresh pick de gallo. We both decided that their food truck food tastes even fresher than the permanent takeout/eat-in place.

And it was an excellent entrée to the Tex-Mex swagger of the Mavericks. Led by Raul Malo, they are a longtime favorite of mine.

Let's party.

Let’s party.

We’d settled on a spot adjacent to the food court, slightly elevated on a grassy hill and kitty-corner from the big stage. If you look at the far-range photo in the gallery, you can see the location we chose. It gave us a nice viewing vantage point. The sun was setting into our eyes, a bit, but I would not complain.

We spotted our dear friend Maureen, former reporter colleague at the big daily, and while chatting, she mentioned that significant Michael had nabbed VIP passes and they were sitting in the folding chairs up front. I declared that we were enjoying the change to our no-notes spot on the side this year.

I managed from my chair to shoot a short video of Malo and The Mavericks’ sound anyway.

I mentioned to Karen that when they’re swinging out, the Mavericks’ sound isn’t that far off from some of the Polka music I was brought up on.

The fest continues today, with Trombone Shorty headlining. If you’re heading up to OCC, enjoy.

Here’s a bonus video, with the New York Voices singing about beans a cappela.

Are you more of a fan of vocal jazz or instrumental jazz? Are you familiar with the work of The Mavericks, and if so, do you have a favorite song? Would you have stayed for Michael McDonald or gone on to other things this busy weekend?

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10 thoughts on “2-band day fits for Jazz Fest on a holiday weekend

  1. Love that sound bro Mark, but then I’ve always loved the Polka. This is such a beautiful venue for concerts, it makes me nostalgic for the old days, but takes too much energy to spend time missing them. So how did it feel to be on the regular folks side this year? And to have food trucks there is nothing short of a miracle to me. We don’t have a single food truck in the area where I live, unless someone has started one in the past year. Hmmm, wonder if I could try a food power chair? I’ll have to get Mike to work on setting up the cook equip. for that just so I can see if it can be done. I’m raising my own tomatoes this year and the first ones will be ripe enough to sample later this week, so I could put kabobs on my menu, Cherry tomato and pineapple kabobs. I probably should work on my menu before going out and trying to start that venture.
    Have a wonderful rest of the weekend bro.

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  2. Wow, the sound is excellent Mark – obviously the band is good but so are the acoustics – very noticeable (Is the i6 better at sound recordings?) I like that type of music. I do prefer instrumental Jazz over vocal – but I suspect it is because I have mostly experienced it as background music when I chatted with friends as I listen to Jazz. I do know some of their work like Dance the Night Away and Here comes the Rain.

    Have a great holiday sir.

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    • Thank you, Paul. I’m considering posting the video clip I shot of New York Voices now. It is a cappela. Yes, the iPhone 6 does a great job of capturing sound with its tiny little microphone! However, on this video I mention, I was far away, and raised the camera mid-song and missed the singers — aiming too high visually!

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  3. Hi Marky mark! The band did sound like polka – and the bonus video was toe tapping beat stuff!
    The sunset was purdy too – and how interesting to not have your passes anymore – and to just chill – and soak it all in and then share with your blog readers –
    Have a great holiday and talk to you soon amigo!

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