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15th Anniversary of the Litchfield Jazz Festival

Marcia Hillman By

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Litchfield Jazz Festival
Kent, Connecticut
August 6-8, 2010
The green hills of Kent, Connecticut resounded once more with the sound of jazz as the 15th Anniversary of the Litchfield Jazz Festival settled in from Friday, August 6th through Sunday, August 8th. This year the main stage was again indoors in the newly air-conditioned hockey rink with a secondary tent stage outdoors. And this year, the weather cooperated with two beautiful sunny days and three starry, starry nights.

Day One: Friday, August 6th

With two emcees on hand—Gary Walker from WBGO New York/New Jersey and Michael Gow from WZBG-FM in Litchfield, Connecticut—the festival began with a musical heavy. Celebrating his 90th year, Dave Brubeck took the stage with today's version of his quartet—Bobby Militello on sax and flute, Randy Jones on drums and Michael Moore on bass. Before starting his set, Brubeck was presented with an award from Connecticut's governor that designated Friday, August 6th as "Dave Brubeck Day" in the state. And then the music started with Brubeck taking the melody for "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" . Militello's sax was smooth and swinging. Brubeck jumped in and made his statement with some tasty chording and showed off his mastery of time with some double-time work. Moore followed with a lyrical bass solo. A rendition of "These Foolish Things" was next with Brubeck providing some interesting key changes in his solo and Moore displaying his technique with the bow. Notable, also, was an Ellington medley consisting of a swinging "C-Jam Blues" with quotes from the piano, a slow, moody "Mood Indigo" and "Take The A Train" featuring Militello carrying the melody. "Sweet Lorraine," one of Nat Cole's hits, was given a smooth reading by Brubeck with a bluesy approach by Militello. Another oldie was "Margie" with an arco solo on bass and Brubeck delivering part Tatum and part boogie-woogie in his solo. Of course, the last number of the set was the one the audience had been waiting for—the famous "Take Five." Everyone was completely ready for this one; the players driving each other in their solos with Jones doing an incredible drum solo—one that had Brubeck standing up at the piano to watch him play and urge him on. This closer brought the audience to their feet.

Brubeck was dynamic throughout the set, with his unbelievable technique and taste, but there was something more. The Dave Brubeck that we all know is now showing us a mellow dimension in his playing in addition to his legendary mastery of the keys—proving that he keeps getting better as "time goes by."

Vocalist Denise Thimes was the closing act for this first evening of the festival. In this, her festival debut, the statuesque, St. Louis-based singer was accompanied by Chris Grasso on piano, Albert Rivera on tenor saxophone, Avery Sharpe on bass and 2010 Artist In Residence Matt Wilson on drums. Opening with a swinging "I Love Being Here With You," Thimes engaged the audience with her bouncy personality and her blues-rooted delivery. The set went on with renditions of "My Romance" and Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." "There Is No Greater Love" received a bluesy treatment with a wailing sax provided by Rivers. Thimes raced her way through a very fast tempo on "This Can't Be Love" that featured Wilson playing the melody on his drums. "Fever" was next on the set with Thimes getting the audience to add finger snapping while she started off the tune singing alone with Sharpe on bass and then building to a "fever" pitch. Renditions of "Can't Help Lovin' That Man Of Mine" and Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Any More" followed with Wilson's brush work sparking the former and Sharpe's fine bass work on the latter. Thimes finished out the set with an up tempo version of "That's All" working with drummer Wilson to build the ending. Possessing a rich quality of voice and a blues feel (and she can belt with the best of them when necessary), Thimes is an entertaining, audience-pleasing performer.

Day Two: Saturday, August 7th


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