Litchfield Jazz Fest celebrates 25th year with free, live, online concerts

Saxophonist Don Braden, a teaching artist, performer and a Litchfield Jazz Festival mainstay.

LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield Jazz Festival will mark its 25th year as a free,livestreamed and free of charge event, from the sound stages of Telefunken Elektroakustik in South Windsor.

In this landmark year for Connecticut’s premier jazz fest, a world-wide audience is expected.

“Sets will be live and the audience will be live, just not in the same room. Can’t always have what you want,” said festival founder Vita Muir. Artist talks between sets will give the virtual audience a chance to chat with the stars.

Program choices were inspired by iconic musicians who hit the Century Mark in 2020.This year’s Litchfield Jazz Festival salutes two of these: Charlie Parker and Art Blakey.

“While it would have been sweet to do Bird, Brubeck and Blakey, we had to pass since we jumped the gun and saluted our dear friend Dave in 2018,” Muir said.

This year the fest master of ceremonies is saxophonist and William College professor, Kris Allen, a longtime Litchfield Jazz Camp faculty member who will also lead a 2020 Charlie Parker tribute.

The Festival begins at 1 p.m., and the last set ends around 6:30 p.m. The schedule:

Litchfield’s Own Legends, 1 p.m. Featuring vocalists Nicole Zuraitis and Anson Jones, Jen Allen, piano, Luques Curtis, bass, and Dan Pugach, drums

Many of the younger set making waves in the jazz sea these days began their musical journey at Litchfield Jazz Camp and remain on faculty there. Opening the festival is rising-star vocalist Nicole Zuraitis. A 2019 Grammy nominee, she tours internationally, heads our Jazz Camp vocal programs each summer, and is helping to raise the next generation. Her bandmates here include protégé vocalist Anson Jones, pianist Jen Allen, bassist and member of the Eddie Palmieri band, Luques Curtis and Nicole’s husband and another 2019 Grammy nominee and leader of the Dan Pugach Nonet, drummer Dan Pugach.

The Charlie Parker Centennial Tribute, 2:45 p.m. Featuring Kris Allen, alto sax, Bruce Harris, trumpet, Jen Allen, piano, Zwe Bell le Pere, bass, Jonathan Barber, drums. Inspired by Parker, contemporary players have moved the music through Parker and beyond. Parker himself once told DownBeat Magazine, “They teach you there’s a boundary line to music, but, man, there’s no boundary line to art.”

Art Blakey Centennial Tribute, 5 p.m. Featuring Valery Ponomarev, trumpet, Don Braden, saxophone, Carl Allen, drums, Robin Eubanks, trombone, Zaccai Curtis, piano.

Art Blakey built more than a band in 1955. He built an institution that became Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers and thrived for 35 years. The first iteration, co-led by Blakey and pianist Horace Silver, included trumpeter Kenny Dorham, bassist Doug Watkins and tenor sax, Hank Mobley. Members included at one time or another, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Freddie Hubbard, Valery Ponomarev, Reggie Workman and others.

The 25th Litchfield Jazz Festival is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Telefunken Elektroakustik. To view the festival, visit Litchfield Jazz Festival’s Facebook page. Access to the concerts is free.

Litchfield Jazz Festival was established in 1996 and celebrates 25 consecutive years of bringing great jazz music to the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. Litchfield Jazz Festival is presented by the not-for-profit Litchfield Performing Arts. Their mission is to educate and inspire young people to be confident, creative, expressive individuals through challenging programs in jazz music and the performing arts and to share the passion and magic of the arts with the wider community.

Connecticut Media Group