15th Anniversary of the Litchfield Jazz Festival
The largest laugh, however, was yet to come when Weinstein did a tribute to that "great violin player" Jack Benny. Starting off "Love In Bloom" in imitation of Benny with wrong notes and scratchy tones, reached everyone's funny bone before he played the song correctly with Firth doing a swinging solo and then trading fours with Weinstein. A Gershwin medley of "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "They All Laughed" closed out the set. This was done up-tempo with everyone having a great time. Besides his obvious violin and mandolin skills, Weinstein has wonderful comedy timing and delivery that made this set doubly entertaining.
The Avery Sharpe Trio, consisting of Avery Sharpe on bass, Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano and Winard Harper on drums was next on the program. These individually talented musicians play together regularly and present a very tight working package. Gumbs is an inventive and solid pianist. Sharpe is a virtuoso bassist who plays with lots of bottom. And Harper is a talented, dynamic drummer who is also wonderful to watch as he enjoys the process of making music. The group began the set with "Boston Baked Blues," a bluesy little number that gave everybody a chance to stretch. James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" was given an inventive treatment with Sharpe winding his way beautifully through the melody. An original titled "Oh No" followed with Gumbs building a tasty solo and Harper showing off his brush technique. "I Understand" featured Sharpe with a hand-clapping participation from the audience. "Sweet Georgia Brown" was followed by "Palace Of The Seven Sands," an original ballad that provided a spellbinding experience because of the loveliness of the composition and the performances of the trio. The set closed with an up tempo "Fly With The Wind" which featured Gumbs piano with Sharpe playing a rhythmic bass pattern and a melodic solo; all driven by Harper's exciting drum engine.
Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana brought a latin element to the day by way of the music of Cuba. Jane Bunnett on soprano sax and flute was joined by husband Larry Cramer on trumpet, Hilario Duran on piano, Charles Flores on bass, Francois Zayas on drums and Mauricio Herrara on congas. The set consisted of music from Cuba in various tempos and provided a showcase for the talented Cuban musicians in her group. As a player, Bunnett has creative improvisational skills on both instruments and is able to demonstrate her deep connection with the rhythms and culture of Cuba. Cramer is equally connected and displays it ably on both trumpet and flugelhorn.
Headlined as "ClarinetworkBenny Goodman and Beyond, the Anat Cohen Quartet with Anat Cohen on clarinet, Benny Green on piano, Barak Mori on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums set the tone for their set with the first number, "Sweet Georgia Brown." With Green's flying fingers on his piano solo, Mori swinging on bass and Cohen showing her dexterity and improvisational skills, the group let the audience share their enjoyment of the music they were making. Their version of "Lullaby of the Leaves," another Goodman standby, followed. But one of the highlights of the set was the ballad "Poor Butterfly" where Green's chords behind Cohen and his single line solo almost sounded like a vibraphone (creating the illusion that Lionel Hampton was somewhere in the group). Cohen's solo on this one was also impressive. A very, very fast rendition of "After You've Gone" had Cohen racing on the clarinet, Green delivering a set-stopping fiery solo, and Calvaire's drums getting a good workout and produced a standing ovation from the crowd. The set closed with a very soulful "Body and Soul." This was one of the magic moments of the festival where everyone on the stage and everyone in the audience really enjoyed themselves.
The last act of this year's Litchfield Jazz Festival actually was a world music group, not a jazz group. The trio comprised of Bela Fleck on banjo, Zakir Hussain on tablas and Edgar Meyer. These three, who individually are virtuoso musicians, joined together to deliver a set of Indian-oriented compositions. With Fleck's banjo dexterity, Meyer's arco bass playing sounding almost like a sitar and Hussain's skillful tabla playing, they produced an atmosphere in which Ravi Shankar would have felt at home. It was a calm, quiet ending to all of the activity of the weekend.
It would be remiss not to mention that all through the weekend, there were also performances by talented students from the Litchfield Jazz Camp in the Second Stage tent and various clinics held on the school grounds.