LITCHFIELD - In jazz, young lions and old lions harmonize more often than battle. The sense of tradition - of the music evolving from what's been played before - is something its musicians abide by as an essential.

The mix of young and old - of established masters and musicians just coming into their own - is one of the strongest points at the 10th annual Litchfield Jazz Festival, which will begin tonight and run through Sunday. "It's the yin and yang of jazz, I suppose,'' said Vita Muir, the founder and head of the festival, which is held at the Goshen Fairgrounds on Route 63
. The festival begins tonight with vocalist Mary Stallings . It will then bring in the first of its two acknowledged legends, pianist McCoy Tyner and his trio. Tyner, now 67, is one of the most powerful and eloquent soloists in the past half-century of jazz. In the 1960s, he was the pianist in the classic
John Coltrane Quartet recordings, often matching Coltrane in the group's improvisations. Since then, he has led small groups and his own big band with his chiming, percussive sound. Adding to the mix tonight, tap dancer Savion Glover - at 31, a young virtuoso of the first rank - will join Tyner on stage, adding his own percussive improvisations to the Tyner sound. On Saturday the music starts at noon with saxophonist Bob Kindred and his trio, and ends in the evening with legendary vocalist Eartha Kitt , who at 78 is still extraordinary. But the musicians who fill the day, Muir said, are masters in their own right: a trio with pianist
Danny Zeitlin , drummer Matt Wilson, and bassist Buster Williams ; jazz singer and songwriter Bob Dorough , and the Caribbean Jazz Project led by vibraphonist Dave Samuels . Muir is especially impressed with 16-year-old jazz singer Sonya Kitchell , who will perform at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. "I've never hired anyone that young," Muir said. "But she's been working professionally for three years. When we heard her, we couldn't believe her. She's also a songwriter who writes very good material." On Sunday, there will be two singers - Karrin Allyson , and Muir's own daughter, 24-year old Lindsey Muir , who will be performing with the Litchfield Jazz Festival All-Stars - the faculty of the three-week summer jazz school that precedes the festival. Although Lindsey has released a much-praised CD, "You're Near - Love Songs of the '30s and '40s" - Vita Muir admitted she and her daughter were unsure if she should perform at the festival. "Lindsey finally said to me 'If you're going to hire somebody nobody knows, you might as well hire somebody nobody knows that you like," Vita Muir said. "Plus, she's been singing with these guys since she was a kid." The Sunday concert will also feature more yin and yang - pianist
Junior Mance , who's 78, followed by trumpeter Nicholas Payton , who is 30. The closing act of the festival will be another legend - pianist Dave Brubeck , 84, who has been an unyielding striving presence in the jazz world since his signature work with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond in the 1950s. On Sunday, he will lead a quartet, that features Michael Moore - the brilliant bassist, not the filmmaker.This year, both Brubeck and McCoy Tyner were recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as Jazz Masters . "So I'm opening and closing with masters," Muir said. What is remarkable about the festival - along with a list of performers that over the years has included Sonny Rollins , Wayne Shorter , Ahmad Jamal Ray Charles , Cassandra Wilson , Diana Krall , and Tito Puente - is its commitment to education. It now runs a three-week jazz camp and a four-week dance school at the Forman School in Litchfield that attracts hundreds of students each year. And, Muir said, she has been able to create a core of musicians - music director and saxophonist Don Braden , saxophonists Mike DiRubbo , bassists John Benitez and Mario Pavone , drummer Matt Wilson and pianist Peter Madsen - that return each year to teach young students by day, then perform with them in the evenings. More old and young lions, more yin and yang. "If I feel somebody is good, I stay with them," Muir said. "I always feel if it's really good, if there's a desire and a purpose to it, it stays alive." The 10th annual Litchfield Jazz Festival runs tonight through Sunday. Tonight's concerts begin at 6 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays begin at noon. Tickets each day are $39 for lawn seating and $59 for tent seating. For more information, the times of the different concerts, and directions, just visit www.litchfieldjazzfestival.com or call (860) 567-4162.

Contact Robert Miller

at bmiller@newstimes.com

or at (203) 731-3345.