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Syracuse Jazz Fest return coincides with completion of new downtown mural

A Jazz Fest performance from a prior year.
Mark Bialczak
A Jazz Fest performance from a prior year.

The Urban Knights and Nathan Williams & The Zydeco Cha Cha’s are set to perform this weekend at the return of Jazz Fest to downtown Syracuse. The previously annual event is back on after a five-year hiatus — the last concert series was in 2017 — and is occurring in the heart of the city for the first time since 2000.

The event’s re-debut is well timed with the unveiling of a new mural featuring notable Syracuse athletes near Columbus Circle.

Jazz Fest director and founder, Frank Malfitano said the three-day affair that features jazz musicians across downtown venues will bring vibrancy to the city.

“I think cities need major 'wow' factor. I think we have to magnify the center of the city to draw people in, and the only way you can do that is by content and programing," Malfitano said.

Malfitano, who also coordinated the installation of a new mural near the festival, said the artwork from an L.A.-based artist pays tribute to basketball stars with local ties that overcame adversity. That includes two-time Olympian and Black Lives Matter activist Breanna Stewart.

“I think we really need to focus on our city’s history. It’s pretty rich. And I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the major role that we played with regard to social and racial justice in this county and in the battle with antisemitism and homophobia,” Malfitano said.

A public unveiling of the mural scheduled for Wednesday evening was canceled due to weather concerns, but Jazz Fest attendees will be able to view the project. The free event starts Thursday and lasts through Sunday in Clinton Square.