All That Jazz: 35 Years of Syracuse Jazz Fest Opens at Onondaga Historical Association

May 4, 2017

The photos capture local and national artists who have captivated audiences since the early 80’s.  The Onondaga Historical Association is commemorating this year's 35th anniversary Syracuse Jazzfest with an exhibit of  photos, articles and video from past events.  Local artists Dave Hanlon and Maria DeSantis quickly spotted themselves on stage in photos and shared instant memories.

2017 Syracuse Jazzfest: June 9th & 10th @ OCC

“I think this is 1988, which might have been the first festival that we played in as the orchestra at Longbranch," says DeSantis

“These two photos that I find myself in, that’s with the Apple Jazz Band, the first time we played at the Jazz Fest," adds Hanlon.  "We played there just about three years ago and this looks like an original cookbook version (aka Dave Hanlon’s Cookbook) back in the early 90’s.” 

Syracuse Jazzfest Producer and Festival Director Frank Malfitano explains what the photos in the exhibit evoke on a personal level.

“It represents the best of the local jazz scene.  You know, local jazz artists who are resident Syracuse artists, student artists, all the national headliners and legends and superstars that have been here.  The crowds, the audiences, ya know, different things related to the technical aspects of the show.”

Local musicians who have played at past Jazzfests are featured prominently in the exhibit.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

Malfitano says the exhibit made him realize that Jazz Fest is a collective community achievement.

“We have presented more legends and superstars and entertainment industry giants than any other cultural institution in the community.  We’re very proud of that and here’s the visual proof of it. So people should really come down and take a look at it.”

Onondaga Historical Society Curator Tom Hunter met with Malfitano to go over photos.  From there, both he and his staff assembled Syracuse Jazz Fest’s chronological timeline and the exhibit’s layout began to fall into place in a matter of weeks.

“It’s a good partnership to show that as with other business, economic, political, religious, social history, music also has its history.  And now, in its 35th year, Jazz Fest is historic," says Hunter.

Photographer Warren Linhart had the pleasure of photographing many of the performers over the years.

“It’s really a tremendous thing to walk in here and see all these photos of all the musicians that have played at Jazz Fest.  It really makes you stop and think about all of the great music that was created by all of these people and how fortunate we are to be able to see musicians like this come through the Syracuse area.  It’s wonderful.”

Musician London McDaniel found himself in some of the pictures.
Credit John Smith/WAER News

Local musician London McDaniels was surprised to see himself.  The photographer captured some intense guitar jamming on stage.

“I am ATTACKING THE GUITAR!  Well, it’s really an honor being with the most amazing jazz musicians in history."

Malfitano feels those artists should never be forgotten.    

“You see Natalie Cole and B.B. King and other artists who have passed in recent years.  I mean, we lost 20 artists in the last two years. Mose Allison, Pete Fountain, Larry Arlotta, one of our own Syracuse jazz greats.  One of the great keyboardists of all time.  But they’re all here in the exhibit, so they live, again.  They live-on in our memory.  That’s what’s so great about this.  You know, that we bring them back to the public’s attention one more time.”  

The exhibit runs through October 3rd at the Onondaga Historical Society.