Hartford is the hotspot for a scorching summer of outdoor jazz in Connecticut


Get ready for sustained bursts of saxophones, creative keyboards, deep percussion and lively vocals, reinforced by bass and accented by a number of other instruments (like a harp). It’s another jazzy summer of outdoor festivals in Connecticut.

Here are some of the joyful jazzy events that anchor the season, but that only scratches the surface of jazz. You’ll find more jazz in parks, across the state, far too many to list here.

Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz Series at Bushnell Park

A six-week series featuring nationally renowned headliners, preceded by revered local players. Free. hartfordjazzsociety.com

  • 11 July : Drummer Al Foster, who played with Miles Davis in the 70s. Openers are the pianist/singer/co-songwriter team of Alex Nakhimovsky and June Bisantz.

  • July 18: Jazz harpist Brandee Younger and her quartet, with Argentinian-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’s overture.

  • August 1: the nationally acclaimed Black Art Jazz Collective, founded by Connecticut native Wayne Escoffery and dedicated to “preserving the historical significance of African Americans in jazz,” with West Hartford jazz guitarist Gianni Gardner as opening act .

  • August 8: Modern bassist Linda May Han Oh, who has worked with Pat Metheny and Kenny Barron among others, as well as opening for Wanda Houston, the Chicago-born singer who now lives in the Berkshires.

  • August 15th: The “Ragmala: Garland of Ragas” project, released as an album two years ago, involves musicians from two ensembles: Go Organic Orchestra and Brooklyn Raga. Opening is trumpeter Nick DiMaria & Skylab.

Greater Hartford Jazz Festival

The decades-old festival returned last summer after its pandemic hiatus and has an even broader lineup this year, from high school and college brass bands to danceable modern jazz/funk, mellow jazz and a range of traditional jazz from hot combos to one of the best known jazz vocal groups of the 50s. Free. hartfordjazz.org.

  • July 14th : The Hall High School Jazz Band with special guest trombonist Chris Crenshaw (famous composer of “God’s Trombones”) at 6 p.m.

  • July 15th : Percussionist/saxophonist Chembo Corniel and his quintet, with trumpeter Ray Vega at 7 p.m.; dancer Whitney Lucky-J at 8:05 p.m.; contemporary/urban jazz saxophonist Vincent Ingala at 8:30 p.m.; another smooth jazz saxophonist, Boney James at 10 p.m.

  • July 16: The biggest day of the festival, with saxophonist William Prince “and friends” from 2:30 p.m.; eclectic jazz/blues/gospel guitarist Isaiah Sharkey at 4:30 p.m.; a dance break with Betty Bruk Up at 6:05 p.m., the fluid trio of guitarist/singer Brian Simpson, pianist Steve Oliver and saxophonist/flutist Jakeim Joyner at 6:30 p.m.; then the double of two legendary jazz fusion bands that have been around since the 1970s, Spyro Gyra at 8:30 p.m. and Average White Band at 10:30 p.m.

  • July 17: Another full day of jazz, starting not in Bushnell Park but as part of the 10 a.m. mass at Christ Church Cathedral, 45 Church St., Hartford with the Hot Cat Jazz Band. Outdoor jazz in Bushnell Park begins at 1 p.m. with Connecticut‘s Funky Dawgz Brass Band at 1 p.m., followed by versatile guitarist Matt Marshak, who has lived in folk, blues, rock and country as well only jazz, and even helped design a line of furniture, playing at 2:30 p.m.; Firey String Sistas, a black feminist jazz chamber ensemble consisting of violin, cello, double bass, piano, percussion and vocals, at 4:30 p.m.; another short dance break, this one with Klassy Katz at 6:05 p.m.: the “New Gospel Revisited” project by Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill at 6:30 p.m.; and the last act of the festival, the famous jazz vocal harmony group The Manhattan Transfer at 8:30 p.m.

Connecticut Farmer’s Market at Old State House

When you shop for fresh vegetables (and more) at the Farmer’s Market Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the grounds of the Old State House 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 Kapelye on July 15; Snowhaus on July 22; Inner Groove on July 29; Jeremy Haddad on August 5; rock guitarist Jake Kulak & the Low Down Band on August 12; Stanley Maxwell on August 19; Red and yellow on August 26; I Guru on September 2; the Audrey Mae Bluegrass group on September 9; KC Sisters on September 16; The Meadows Brothers on September 23; Nekita Waller on September 30; and The Band of Steady Habits going deep into fall on October 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 prices and information on litchfieldjazzfest.com.

July 29: Samara Joy at 7:30 p.m.

July 30: Anton Kot and The Litchfield Jazz Camp Faculty Quartet with Don Braden, Avery Sharpe, Julian Shore and Jean Caze at 11:30am, Gregoire Maret Trio at 1pm, the Mark Whitfield Band at 3pm and the combined talents of Ken Peplowski, Houston Person, Ehud Asherie, Peter Washington and Willie Jones III at 5:15 p.m.

The festival ends on July 31 with a “Sunday Brunch in the Garden”.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at [email protected].

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