Aug 5, 2013
08:52 PM
Arts & Entertainment

Litchfield Jazz Festival Has a Hot Lineup in Goshen This Weekend

Litchfield Jazz Festival Has a Hot Lineup in Goshen This Weekend

Christine Ebersole.

It’s too difficult to write about jazz. What do you say?

Sure, you can talk about the performers, their credentials, how they play, what they play—and so on—but what do you say, what words do you use that have the same feeling as the music?

Langston Hughes wrote verse that was inspired by jazz, was about jazz and was like jazz—but that’s not the same as telling people about jazz.

Not the same as trying to persuade people to go somewhere and experience live jazz—to go, for example, to the annual Litchfield Jazz Festival, being presented this coming Friday through Sunday at the Goshen Fairgrounds in northwest Connecticut. General admission lawn tickets, which allow you to pull up a blanket and picnic just outside the reserved seating in the tent, are just $30.

Here’s what jazz festival PR & Marketing Director Lindsey Muir offered as a way of tempting Connecticut Magazine’s audience to come up to Litchfield County and give the festival a try:

“The Litchfield Jazz Festival is the premier summer jazz event in Connecticut. Never been before? Make this the year with kids 12 and under free on the lawn and a fun new Kids Zone. The 3-day weekend, (August 9-11) includes the event of the season – The Opening Night Friends Gala, the best in jazz and fantastic outdoor summer experiences – local food vendors, crafters, a fine art show, a second stage to showcase their Litchfield Jazz Camp students, local beers and refreshing wines. Enjoy the breeze, sunshine, great views and acoustics on the lawn or under the Mainstage Tent.”

All of that is on the mark, but in this case, the difficulty is not in writing about jazz but in writing about the festival that contains the jazz. Heading into its 18th season, the festival is so fully formed that there’s just too much to say. And if jazz devotees know anything, they know that the fulcrum of sublimity amid the flow of the music and the scene is that moment—the moment you didn’t see coming but will never forget: Diana Krall at the Litchfield festival just as her career was arcing toward its peak, to name just one such moment.

So the challenge for Ms. Muir is to spin words that not just anticipate those moments but to make sure folks are in the audience to experience the magic when it happens. It’s much more difficult than it looks.

Take that opening night gala, for example. Here’s a bunch of other words from the jazz festival folks about it: “’It’s high time someone employs several hundred words to sing the praises of jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein for the largest possible audience.’ Well, somebody did. Huffington Post’s David Finkle who made that claim sang the praises of the 28-year-old “genius” violinist and his performance partner, Tony Award-winning actress and vocalist Christine Ebersole—to one million readers in a single day! Litchfield Jazz Festival already had the inside track on the pair: Weinstein had knocked the collective socks off its audience at the 2010 Festival.

“Bespectacled, boyish, musically outstanding and hysterically funny in the bargain, Aaron brought the idea of working with Christine to the Festival this past fall. ‘She had been on our radar but a bit out of our reach until Aaron made us an offer we couldn’t refuse for a project we loved,’ said Vita Muir, Litchfield’s founder and Artistic Director. Granted, Ebersole is a Broadway mega- star and Litchfield is a Jazz festival. But Weinstein is a first class jazzer, and sure enough together they have all the “hip” audiences could want. They call their act “Strings Attached!” and have played it to rave reviews at Birdland and other venues.”

Weinstein and Ebersole are on the opening night bill, the Gala for Friends ($150).

Another thing Lindsey Muir highlights is an aspect of the festival jazz-loving parents have long been craving: “Kids Zone activities are free and include a graffiti artist creating an epic mural, stilt walking, juggling, a magician and hoop dancing. Plus RS Berkeley, the instrument manufacturer, is hosting demonstrations of trumpets and saxophones of all kinds by its endorsers who work for Litchfield Jazz Camp and started their musical careers there 10 to 15 years ago! Thanks to RS Berkeley, two lucky families have the chance to win one of their excellent trumpets or saxophones.”

Where there’s live jazz, there should also be food and libations. Here’s what the festival has to say about that: “Beverage offerings (you can buy alcoholic beverages on site but not bring your own) now boast a locally crafted lager from Olde Burnside Brewery out of East Hartford and an exciting new line of California wines from the Alfresco line bottled and distributed by Ridgefield-based Master Brands. Choosey about their wines, Muir and several of her pickier staffers sampled chilled glasses of the wines they’d offer at the Fest and were delighted with the line’s quality and crisp finish for summer drinking. (Both companies are sponsors of the festival this year).

“It wouldn’t be a festival without food. Great food, both exotic and familiar. Litchfield is offering everything from Ethiopian vegetarian and vegan options, Pad Thai, Falafel, and lobster fritters to steak grinders and locally raised bison burgers. To top off meals, you can try savory or sweet French crepes, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and organic coffees and teas from the Lakeville-based Harney & Sons. Visitors are welcome to bring picnics if they wish, but all food offerings are well priced.”

The bottom line, though, is there’s no way to know how cool the Litchfield Jazz Festival is or all that is has to offer unless you go. The festival’s website has all the information about tickets, times and how to get there, and elaboration on all the great names on this full schedule of performers:

Friday, August 9th:

5:45 PM    Friends of the Festival Opening Night Gala      
7:45 PM    Emmet Cohen Trio                   
9:15 PM    Christine Ebersole & Aaron Weinstein Trio  Strings Attached!        

Saturday, August 10th:

12:00 PM    The Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble           
1:45 PM    Avery Sharpe Gospel Explosion & Sacred Songs         

3:30 PM    Gary Smulyan’s Baritone Summit            

4:45 PM    Artist Talk with Gregory Porter Hosted by AIR Gary Smulyan

6:00 PM    Gregory Porter                     

7:45 PM    Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band            

Sunday, August 11th:

12:00 PM    Orrin Evans Trio                        

1:45 PM    Chet Baker Project with June Bisantz          

3:45 PM    Don Braden Quartet featuring Geri Allen        

4:50 PM    Artist Talk with Papo Vazquez Hosted by AIR Gary Smulyan

5:30 PM    In the Spirit of Coltrane and Cannonball
Vincent Herring – Eric Alexander Quintet featuring Harold Mabern

7:15 PM    Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours      
 

And if that’s not enough, there’s also this:

“Audience members will get the chance to win exciting prizes whose proceeds will support the Festival’s Jazz Camp scholarships. The camp awards need-based scholarships to a quarter of its students, valued at $90,000 – $100,000 each year.

While guests at the fest at Goshen Fairgrounds hear artists like the Grammy- nominated singing sensation Gregory Porter (and get to meet him at an onsite talk with Artist-in-Residence Gary Smulyan and DownBeat Publisher, Frank Alkyer!), great Latin Jazz bandleader, Eddie Palmieri, saxophonists Don Braden, Eric Alexander and Gary Smulyan, pianists Geri Allen, Orrin Evans and Harold Mabern, Broadway superstar vocalist Christine Ebersole, and many more, they will have the chance to win fabulous holidays, professional instruments, a custom portrait and more.

On offer are two glamorous vacations. A group of up to six will spend 7 nights at the private Cay Cottage on the waterfront in Eleuthera, the Bahamas (thanks to Jazz at Japanalia, Hartford). A party of four lucky winners will spend New Year’s holiday week 2013 at Bluebeard’s Castle in St. Thomas, VI. Instrument manufacturer RS Berkeley, a festival sponsor, is offering an Elite series pocket trumpet valued at $800, an Artist Series, silver-clad trumpet valued at over $2000 and a real collector’s item, their best Virtuoso Alto Saxophone (value $3600) autographed by many great jazz saxophonists for the occasion.
The festival’s board president, artist Robert Lenz, will paint an oil portrait (value $2000) for the lucky individual sitting for it. Festival beer sponsor Olde Burnside Company is offering an Olde Burnside sword and memorabilia basket. And, Litchfield Performing Arts—the jazz group’s non-profit parent-- will raffle off a Free Residential Week at its award-winning Litchfield Jazz Camp for summer 2014.

Tickets for the raffle are available on all three festival days. The winners will be announced before the closing set by Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours, on the Mainstage at 7 PM, Sunday, August 11. Winners do not have to be present to win but will be responsible to pick up or cover shipping costs of the item(s).”

For tickets visit www.litchfieldjazzfest.com, call 860-361-6285 or go to the Palace Theater Box Office in Waterbury. And join the conversation for up-to-the minute details, photos, discounts and more on www.facebook.com/litchfieldjazzfestival and www.twitter.com/litchfieldjazz.

 

Litchfield Jazz Festival Has a Hot Lineup in Goshen This Weekend

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