December 17, 2018

Litchfield Jazz Festival Announces 17th Anniversary Line-up and Move Back to Goshen

Kids at Litchfield Jazz Festival (by Antonio Monterio)

Lawn Audience at Litchfield Jazz Festival (by Michael Fiedler)










Lawn Audience at Litchfield Jazz Festival (by Antonio Monterio)









Litchfield Jazz Festival is marking its 17th season August 10-12.  By popular demand and the fervent request or our fans, the Festival moves back to its long-time home at the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen, CT.  The Festival will offer tent and lawn seating and adjacent, free parking. The date of this year’s Festival also represents a change.  The Litchfield has shifted a week further into August, making it possible for die-hard jazz lovers to attend both the Litchfield and the Newport Festival, which airs a week before.  In addition, the Festival welcomes 2012 Artist-in-Residence Gary Smulyan who will lead Artist Talks and perform in a powerful salute to George Coleman with special guest Eric Alexander.

Festival goers enjoying the weather at Litchfield Jazz Festival (by Antonio Monterio)

The Litchfield Jazz Festival opens Friday evening August 10th with a Gala in its new Sunset Lounge sponsored by The Litchfield Inn and Bantam Bistro with music by outstanding students of Litchfield Jazz Camp.  Campers over the years have gone on to play with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Kenny Werner, Eddie Palmieri, Cyrus Chestnut, Cindy Blackman and others.  The Gala will be followed by the NEW Jazz Party & Auction kicking off with music of the acclaimed Four Freshmen.  The original group has passed on but they trained extraordinary young jazz musician-vocalists to carry on and render their tunes in the style we all remember and love.  The group was one of four top picks by the most recent JazzTimes Reader’s Poll.  Friday evening, August 10th, will also feature a brief auction of jazz collectibles, memorabilia and other items available for on-line bidding prior to the event and live and by telephonic bidding on Friday night.  The auction will benefit the not-for-profit Litchfield Jazz Camp need-based scholarships.  Next up the fest will host the Grammy winning Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks.  The band is featured on the award winning HBO special series Boardwalk Empire.  Their theme is swing, and swing guests will, encouraged by some of New York’s best professional dancers, on a dance floor provided for the occasion.  The Festival hopes to make this celebration an annual fundraiser for its charitable work.

Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks

Gary Smulyan at Litchfield Jazz Festival (by Nathan Turner)

The Jazz Festival begins in earnest on Saturday, August 11 at noon with the remarkable pianist Helen Sung and her Trio.  A winner of the Kennedy Center Mary Lou Williams Award, Sung has toured with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and others and appeared at many international festivals.  She is also a teaching artist at Litchfield Jazz Camp.  Next up at 1:45, the Fest welcomes Avery Sharpe and his musical tribute to the suffragist Sojourner Truth.  He will premiere a work commissioned by the New England Foundation for the Arts and Meet the Composer.  One of the most highly regarded bassists in jazz, Avery played for 20 years with the iconic McCoy Tyner, pianist for John Coltrane.  This set will be followed by the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet.

Ambrose Akinmusire


Akinmusire, a gifted trumpeter, won the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and was the 2011 JazzTimes Readers Poll pick for Best New Artist, a singular honor.  He records on the prestigious Blue Note label.  The next offering is a stunning salute to jazz saxophonist George Coleman led by the most celebrated baritone sax player today, Gary Smulyan.  Coleman, now 75 years old started his career at 17 with the great B.B. King and moved into the jazz scene a year later, joining legends Gene Ammons, Kenny Dorha, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis.  He is perhaps best known as a member of the ground-breaking Herbie Hancock Quintet and his contribution to Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, one of the most popular jazz albums of all time.  Using Coleman’s arrangements, Smulyan welcomes to the stage Onaje Allen Gumbs, Marcus McLaurine, Matt Wilson, Jeff Lederer, Dave Ballou, Kris Allen and Don Braden (all Jazz Camp faculty), with special guest and Coleman protégé, Eric Alexander.  A Litchfield favorite, pianist Benny Green graces the stage at 7 PM backed by Kenny Washington, Peter Washington and Gary Smulyan.  Green last appeared at Litchfield in a tour-de-force performance with saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen in 2010.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band (by Michael Weintrob)

Finally the blockbuster day ends with a blockbuster band, New Orleans stars, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  Thirty years since their founding, the Dirty Dozen is a world famous music machine who have appeared on albums with artists like David Bowie, Elvis Costello, and Dr. John.  The dance floor is not going anywhere, and neither, we predict, is the audience, until the last rousing encore.


On Sunday, August 12 the Fest opens at noon with the handsome heir apparent to Toots Theilemans, harmonica virtuoso Grégoire Maret.  A Swiss native, Maret joined guitarist Pat Metheny’s Group in 2005, won a Grammy, toured with Marcus Miller and Herbie Hancock and then struck out on his own.  This is his Litchfield debut.  At 1:30 pm, the Fest welcomes saxophonist Donny McCaslin, a wunderkind who began playing professionally at age 12.   He has performed with the great Gil Evans, Michael Brecker and John Medeski, and went out on his own after a highly successful collaboration with famed trumpeter Dave Douglas.  In its annual salute to living legends, LJF is proud to present the great flutist and NEA Jazz Master Hubert Laws at 3:30 pm.  Laws is a multi-talented musician/composer as at home in classical music as jazz (he was a member of both the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) and won kudos for scores for Neil Simon’s California Suite and the films The Color Purple and The Wiz.  He has collaborated with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Leonard Bernstein. At 5:15 pm, saxophonist Miguel Zenón with take the stage to present his tribute to Puerto Rican

Gregoire Maret (by Ingrid Hertfelder)

Plena music, a work for which he was honored with a coveted MacArthur Genius Award and for which his critically acclaimed recording Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook was Grammy Nominated.  Miguel appeared at the Litchfield in 2007 with the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra. He is a founding member and artistic director for the SF Jazz Collective.  The Festival closes at 7 pm with a rousing tribute to Kansas City Swing, a project envisioned by two jazz stalwarts and teaching artists at Litchfield Jazz Camp, vocalist Kevin Mahogany and guitarist Dave Stryker.  The core of the ensemble is Stryker’s organ trio assisted by the outstanding alto saxophonist and longest standing member of the Litchfield faculty (all 16 years!) Mike DiRubbo.  And that dance floor?  Still there waiting for our audience to close out the festival the way they opened it, swinging. 

Premium tickets are $500 for the new Backstage Pass (only 10 available/day), $350 for Best Friends VIP weekend passes and $150 for single day Friends VIP tickets.  These include upfront assigned seating, access to the new Sunset Lounge and priority parking.  VIP ticket holders on Friday night attend the Friends of the Festival Gala in the Sunset Lounge. Advance-purchase general admission tickets are $65 for Friday night’s Jazz Party, Auction & Concert.  Saturday and Sunday’s tickets are $55 under the tent and $25 on the lawn. Discounted multi-day passes are available until August 10th. Parking is free and right across the street. Children 12 and under are free on the lawn with an adult ticket buyer.

The Litchfield Jazz Festival is supported in part by an award from the Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development Offices of Culture & Tourism, DownBeat, Republican-American, Steinway & Sons Westport Gallery, Crystal Rock Water Company, Heritage Hotel, Kelley Transit, RS Berkeley, Litchfield Magazine, Union Savings Bank, The Litchfield Inn and Bantam Bistro, Olde Burnside Brewing Company, Vandoren, Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, WBGO Jazz88 and others.  Litchfield Jazz Camp students, who study for up to a month prior to The Festival and perform on the student stage, participate through major support from the CT State Department of Education Interdistrict Grants and additional support from The Joe Williams Every Day Fund, NAMM Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, Connecticut Community Foundation and LPA members.  For tickets visit or call 860-361-6285.