WASHINGTON — Litchfield Jazz Festival has made some big changes this summer. But, one thing remains the same — the music, as always, will be outstanding. The most notable among the changes is the festival’s location. In its 24th season the critically acclaimed Litchfield Jazz Festival which helped build the early careers of Diana Krall, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Emmet Cohen and so many others, will move to the Gunnery in Washington, where Litchfield Jazz Camp already operates. The aim, the directors say, is to develop a connection between the fest and its Camp in the public imagination. With these two activities far flung geographically for so more than two decades, many do not even realize they are related, never mind run by the same 38 year old not-for-profit, Litchfield Performing Arts.
There are many reasons to be excited about the changes this year. For one thing, jazz lovers will enjoy Mainstage concerts in air-conditioned comfort at the Gunnery’s Emerson Performing Art Center. The venue is an intimate 220 seats so everyone gets a seat close to the action. For those who love the fair atmosphere of old, the Festival has arranged an Outer Fest, for Saturday, July 27. This event will host Litchfield Jazz Camper concerts and attractions of all kinds on the Washington Green — the Outer Fest on the Washington Green is free. Also, the party crowd will enjoy two great fundraiser events in addition to the concerts — an Opening Night Gala on Friday, July 26, and a Jazz Brunch on Sunday, July 28.
All Mainstage performances will be held in EPAC. Artists include the iconic Mike Stern, Wycliffe Gordon, Randy Brecker, Avery Sharpe, Alvin Atkinson and others, and the madly talented younger set, the vocal group Duchess, the Chad LB Quartet, vocalist Alexis Cole, pianist Carmen Staaf and many more. A visit to www.litchfieldjazzfest.com provides lineups and times.
EPAC with just 220 seats puts everyone close enough to the performers to enjoy jazz as it’s meant to be heard, in intimate surroundings. Concertgoers can count on excellent sound, too, thanks to long-time Festival supporter and respected leader in sound and sound reinforcement, Telefunken Elektroakustik. The public is encouraged to order tickets early. This year, two back-to-back shows or all of them can be ordered. Parties can also be ordered separately.
With the addition of the Outer Fest, the Festival weekend will continue to offer the attractions that visitors have come to enjoy over the years — arts, crafts, good food, artist talks, family fun and the Litchfield Jazz Camp Student Stage, this year at First Church, on the Green. Thanks to a grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation, OuterFest experiences are offered at no charge and are located just across the road(RT 47) from the Mainstage. Outer Fest activities will be held Saturday, July 27 only, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Among the treats offered will be wood-fired, freshly baked pizza. Exhibitors will include Litchfield County artists Danielle Mailer, Chris Osborne and Steve Sokolin, jeweler Carnelian Knoll a favorite at the fest since its beginnings, and Woodbury Music with records, instruments and more, to name a few. All Outer Fest exhibitors will be listed on the festival website, on social media, and in the Program Guide.
This year for the first time all Litchfield Campers will perform, as the fest marks the 23rd Student Stage Shows. Campers, performing in well-rehearsed combos, will delight audiences with their talent and professionality. At The First Congregational Church, Frank Alkyer, publisher of DownBeat Magazine, will host talks with select festival performers. A break between the Fest’s afternoon and evening shows will allow audiences to enjoy student sets and Outer Fest activities.
Over the years, the Festival has become famous for great parties as well as great music. This year the Opening Night Gala will be held at The Judy Black Memorial Park & Gardens, Friday, July 26, in Washington Depot (at the foot of the RT 47 hill). Guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres with French reserve wines and microbrews, an art exhibit by local artist Peter Wooster, and live jazz by top Litchfield Jazz Camp students. Gala ticket holders will go on after the party to EPAC for a performance by the Litchfield Jazz Orchestra with award-winning vocalist Alexis Cole in a show she calls, “A Canary in Combat Boots,” in honor of her fledgling days singing beloved American Songbook tunes with the U.S. Army Band.
Two parties, not just one, are available this year. On Sunday Morning, in a Gunnery courtyard that could have been plucked from the Cotswolds, brunch ticket holders will enjoy the Ladies Who Swing Jazz Brunch. The Don Braden Band will back the legendary jazz and blues vocalist Antoinette Montague saluting stars of the music across the years, like Shirley Horn, Bessie Smith, Abby Lincoln, Peggy Lee, and other greats. Litchfield Jazz Signature Sangria and microbrews will accompany a delicious meal courtesy of VanDoren Vineyards and Black Hog Brewery.
Parking and shuttle service is available and free of charge. Guests who require handicap access, are encouraged to contact the main office at 860-361-6285 prior to July 25 so convenient arrangements can be ensured.
For tickets to any of the ticketed events and shows visit https://bit.ly/2xp6XSc.