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Live Reviews

Litchfield Jazz Festival 2007

By Published: October 7, 2007
Highlights came in both expected and unexpected places. Bassist Mario Pavone's group with Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Charles Burnham (violin), Peter McEachern (trombone), Peter Madsen (piano) and Michael Sarin (drums) put on a deliciously subversive set with lots of snaking twists and turns. Another bassist, the quasi-legendary Charlie Haden, was celebrating his 70th birthday at his first Litchfield Jazz Festival appearance, and his set with the Liberation Music Orchestra featuring Carla Bley (and guest second trombonist Ray Anderson) proved that this may be one of the most beautifully conceived large ensembles in jazz today. Sonny Fortune turned in his usual firebreathing set to the delight of the audience, who probably had little experience with a quartet that could get that loud, and outside at that.

But maybe the best set of the festival came very early on and from a sentimental place. As mentioned above, the Litchfield Jazz Festival works in conjunction with Litchfield Jazz Camp (Don Braden, Sonny Fortune drummer Steve Johns, most of Mario Pavone's group including the leader, Dave Stryker and others from the festival participated in 2007). A pair of brothers, Zaccai (piano) and Luques (bass) Curtis were once students at the camp but opened the first full day with their Latin jazz group Insight. Supporting a new album and fresh off a Grammy win for Luques (he plays in Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch's band), the septet impressed the arriving crowd with mature and compelling melodies that expanded upon what is sometimes a constrained stylistic palette.

The rest of the festival was energetic and enthusiastic, just modern enough to attract without alienating. The mixture and pacing fit the laid-back environment and all the performers seemed genuinely to enjoy their experience, translating into heartfelt sets from afternoon to evening. With fine, if a little warm, weather, good music, a bag of kettle corn and some local beer, the blueberries didn't stand a chance.

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