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
. It will then bring in the first of its two acknowledged legends, pianist
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
- 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
and his trio, and ends in the evening with legendary vocalist
, 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
, drummer Matt Wilson, and bassist
; jazz singer and songwriter
, and the Caribbean Jazz Project led by vibraphonist
Muir is especially impressed with 16-year-old jazz singer
, 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 -
, and Muir's own daughter, 24-year old
, 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
, who's 78, followed by trumpeter
, who is 30.
The closing act of the festival will be another legend - pianist
, 84, who has been an unyielding striving presence in the jazz world since his signature work with alto saxophonist
in the 1950s. On Sunday, he will lead a quartet, that features
- 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
Ahmad Jamal Ray Charles
, and Tito Puente - is its commitment to education. It now runs a three-week jazz camp and a four-week dance school at the
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
, drummer Matt Wilson and pianist
- 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
or call (860) 567-4162.
Contact Robert Miller
or at (203) 731-3345.