15th Anniversary of the Litchfield Jazz Festival
Today's program displayed a Latin flair, opening with a set by the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet. Comprised of Gabriel Alegria on trumpet, Laura Andrea Leguia on tenor and soprano saxophones, Yuri Juarez on guitar, John Benitez on bass, Shirazette Tinnin on drums and Freddy "Huevito" Lobaton on percussion, the Sextet (as announced by Alegria) aimed to take the audience "on a tour of Peru" via the music. Starting off with an original by Alegria titled "Pucusana" (also the title of their new CD), the group made an immediate melodic, rhythmical and high energy impact. Alegria's full, rich tone on his trumpet solo and Leguia's fluidity on soprano sax were notable. Another original (this one by Leguia) entitled "Puerto Pimental showed a quieter side and featured Leguia on tenor saxophone and Alegria on flugelhorn, as well as showing off drummer Tinnin's talents. Guitarist Juarez also contributed a conversational guitar solo on this one. A highlight of this set was another Alegria original, "Piso 19," which featured Lobaton on percussion and also performing Peruvian Zapateo dancing that brought the house down. It was a dynamic, exciting set for this group's debut Litchfield Jazz Festival appearance.
In total contrast (also making their first appearance at the Festival) was the next act, The Gerald Clayton Trio, Pianist Gerald Clayton (related to the musical Claytons) was joined by Joe Sanders on bass and Justin Brown on drums. This multi-award wining pianist has an interesting style and delivered a lovely version of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma" as part of his set. Notable also was an example of his composing ability with his original "Summer Day Go." Both Brown and Sanders ably displayed their talents during the set.
During the first two Mainstage sets of the day, Artist in Residence Matt Wilson was out in the Second Stage tent conducting a lengthy interview with Dave Brubeck. This writer caught a few minutes of this fascinating dialogue and hopes that it was captured in its entirety on a video.
Next on the Mainstage was Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Project. Dave Samuels on vibes and marimbas, pianist Alain Mallet, bassist Lincoln Goines, Vince Cherico on drums and Roberto Quintero on congas. This group is a tightly knit unit that swings latin-style. One of the major treats in the set was group's rendition of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" with Samuels displaying his formidable vibes technique. His solo was complete with appropriate shading, tempo changes which ranged from very fast down to a soulful ending.
Quintero took the stage to play a solo on Venezuelan maracaswhich are smaller and have a different sound than the maracas with which we are familiar. He has wonderful dexterity with these and also with the congas, on which he can be electrifying. The rest of the set bespoke of more of the same talented musicianship from all of the players and ended up with a tune that Samuels called a "takeoff on 'Green Dolphin Street.'" Mallet really gave the piano a workout on this one, with solid support from bassist Goines, a dynamic drum solo by Cherico, an exciting one from conguero Quintero and Samuels leading the way with his magic mallets.
A leap into the avant-garde was provided by Mario Pavone Orange Double Tenor playing sections of his commissioned work "Arc Suite"a piece that will be recorded for broadcast on Dee Dee Bridgewater's Jazz Set on National Public Radio. Bassist Pavone, who is president of the board of Litchfield Performing Arts and a clinician at the Litchfield Jazz Camp, was joined by Tony Malaby and Jimmy Greene on soprano and tenor saxophones, Dave Ballon on trumpet, Peter Madsen on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The work featured some impressive conversational work between trumpet and piano and piano and the horn sectiondriven all the way through by Pavone's powerful bass playing.