Get set for sustained bursts of saxophones, creative keyboards, profound percussion and vivacious vocals, bolstered by bass and accented by any number of other instruments (like a harp). It’s another jazzy summer of outdoor festivals in Connecticut.
Here are few of the joyous jazzy events that anchor the season, but it’s only scratching the jazz surface. You’ll find more jazz in parks, throughout the state,way too much to list here.
Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz Series in Bushnell Park
A six-week series with nationally known headliners, preceded by revered local players. Free. hartfordjazzsociety.com
July 11: Drummer Al Foster, who played with Miles Davis in the ’70s. The openers are the pianist/vocalist/co-songwriting team of Alex Nakhimovsky and June Bisantz.
July 18: Jazz harpist Brandee Younger and her quartet, with Argentina-born saxophonist Julieta Eugenio opening.
July 25: Afro-Latin Jazz bandleader Arturo O’Farrill and his quartet, with the sextet format of the local Latin Essence Jazz Group opening.
August 1: the nationally renowned Black Art Jazz Collective, founded by Connecticut native Wayne Escoffery and devoted to “preserving the historical significance of African Americans in jazz,” with West Hartford jazz guitarist Gianni Gardner as the opening act.
August 8: Modern stand-up bassist Linda May Han Oh, who’s worked with Pat Metheny and Kenny Barron among others, plus opening act Wanda Houston, the Chicago-born vocalist who now lives in the Berkshires.
August 15: The “Ragmala: Garland of Ragas” project, released as an album two years ago, involving musicians from two ensembles: Go Organic Orchestra and Brooklyn Raga. Opening is trumpeter Nick DiMaria & Skylab.
Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz
The decades-old festival returned last summer from its pandemic hiatus, and has an even larger line-up this year, from brassy high school and college bands to danceable modern jazz/funk, smooth jazz and a range of trad jazz from hot combos to one of the best known jazz vocal groups of the past 50s years. Free. hartfordjazz.org.
July 14: The Hall High School Jazz Band with special guest trombonist Chris Crenshaw (the acclaimed composer of “God’s Trombones”) at 6 pm
July 15: Percussionist/saxophonist Chembo Corniel and his quintet, featuring trumpeter Ray Vega at 7 pm; dancer Whitney Lucky-J at 8:05 pm; contemporary/urban jazz saxophonist Vincent Ingala at 8:30 pm; another smooth jazz saxophonist, Boney James at 10 pm
July 16: The biggest day of the festival, with saxophonist William Prince “and friends” starting at 2:30 pm; eclectic jazz/blues/gospel guitarist Isaiah Sharkey at 4:30 pm; a dance break with Betty Bruk Up at 6:05 pm, the smooth trio of guitarist/vocalist Brian Simpson, pianist Steve Oliver and saxophonist/flutist Jakeim Joyner at 6:30 pm; then the one-two punch of two legendary jazz fusion acts that have been around since the 1970s, Spyro Gyra at 8:30 pm and Average White Band at 10:30 pm
July 17: Another full day of jazz, starting not at Bushnell Park but as part of the 10 am mass at Christ Church Cathedral, 45 Church St., Hartford featuring the Hot Cat Jazz Band. The outdoor jazz in Bushnell Park starts at 1 pm with the Connecticut-based Funky Dawgz Brass Band at 1 pm, followed by: versatile guitarist Matt Marshak, who’s dwelled in the realms of folk, blues, rock and country as well as jazz, and even helped design a line of furniture, playing at 2:30 pm; Firey String Sistas, a Black feminist jazz chamber ensemble made up of violin, cello, stand-up bass, piano, percussion and vocals, at 4:30 pm; another short dance break, this one with Klassy Katz at 6:05 pm: Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill’s “New Gospel Revisited” project at 6:30 pm; and the final act of the festival, the famous jazz vocal harmony group The Manhattan Transfer at 8:30 pm
Farmer’s Market at Connecticut’s Old State House
When shopping for fresh vegetables (and much more) at the farmer’s market Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm on the Old State House grounds at 800 Main St., Hartford (wp.cga.ct.gov) you can hear a variety of local acts, most of them jazz (or close enough):
The Nelson Bello Jazz Trio on July 8; Nu Haven Kapely on July 15; Snowhaus on July 22; Inner Groove on July 29; Jeremy Haddad on Aug. 5; rock guitarist Jake Kulak & the Low Down Band on Aug. 12; Stanley Maxwell on Aug. 19; Red & Yellow on Aug. 26; I Guru on Sept. 2; the Audrey Mae Bluegrass Band on Sept. 9; KC Sisters on Sept. 16; The Meadows Brothers on Sept. 23; Nekita Waller on Sept. 30; and The Band of Steady Habits bringing up deep into Autumn on Oct. 7. The summer of jazz will have cooled down.
Litchfield Jazz Festival
A weekend of jazz at the new Thomas Perakos Arts & Community Center at the Gunnery School in Washington. General admission starts at $49. More pricing and information at litchfieldjazzfest.com.
July 29: Samara Joy at 7:30 pm
July 30: Anton Kot and The Litchfield Jazz Camp Faculty Quartet with Don Braden, Avery Sharpe, Julian Shore and Jean Caze at 11:30 am, Gregoire Maret Trio at 1 pm, the Mark Whitfield Band at 3 pm, and the combined talents of Ken Peplowski, Houston Person, Ehud Asherie, Peter Washington And Willie Jones III at 5:15 pm
The festival ends on July 31 with a “Sunday Brunch in the Garden.”
Christopher Arnott can be reached at email@example.com,