Writer’s Note: Here is another look back at a jazz event, and I hope the article will entertain you, especially if you are sheltering at home, or in quarantine. Stay safe!
On Saturday, December 7, 2019, the Litchfield Jazz Festival hosted the third annual “Jingle & Mingle” celebration. The event was held at the beautiful Litchfield Community Center, in Litchfield, CT, and it was a fundraiser for the Litchfield Jazz Camp.
About the Litchfield Jazz Camp, the website says the following:
“Founded in 1997, Litchfield Jazz Camp serves about 300 residential and day students during a month-long program on the campus of the Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut. Run by Litchfield Performing Arts (est. 1981), a charitable organization dedicated to changing lives through music, the Camp’s philosophy is simple. We start with a faculty of amazing and inspiring jazz musicians who represent the best jazz players/educators on the scene today. To that we add eager music students in a non-competitive, all-inclusive program. No audition is required; just a desire to attend and make music. Litchfield Jazz Camp embraces all learners: students of all ages from 13 years up – beginners, intermediate learners, advanced players, students with learning disabilities. That is how the collaborative, supportive and fun atmosphere at Litchfield Jazz Camp is created.
Money is never a bar to participation. Last summer LJC accepted 25% of its student body on need-based scholarships (distributing $50,000 in aid). Students are taught in skill-based combos and have extensive opportunities to perform for each other and the public at the end of each session and at the award-winning Litchfield Jazz Festival. They experience the music of their master teachers in the evenings and jam themselves each night.
Students enjoy lots of listening and performance opportunities at Litchfield Jazz Camp. They attend Faculty concerts and jams nightly, and student combo concerts wrap up each week. At the end of week 4, is the world renowned Litchfield Jazz Festival. There campers hear festival stars in a private concert just for them on Friday night, perform themselves at the free Outer Festival on Saturday, and meet artists in person during artist talks and master classes. This makes for a thrilling culmination to one of the most exciting music education experiences available anywhere. Understanding the whole person is the ultimate point of any right-thinking program, health and stamina are encouraged with optional sports in the afternoons. Most students are college-bound, and to support that the camp holds at college night each season with representatives of a wide array of university level music programs. This group includes scouts who often offer our need-scholarship students opportunities at their schools.
Many of our campers attend every summer throughout their teens, allowing for the camp to make major impact on their skills and their emotional and personal development. Our Residential Assistant and Teaching Assistant ranks are peopled by former campers. Many of these in the fullness of time have appeared on the Litchfield Jazz Festival mainstage as sidemen and even leaders. Our surveys of former campers show that Litchfield’s participants continue their education at college and beyond. About half take academic degrees and half music. At least half garner scholarships. Many go on to win prestigious music awards (Monk and Downbeat Competition winners and more).”
At the start of Jingle & Mingle, the band, comprised of guitarist Doug Munro, vocalist Anson Jones, bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere, saxophonist Albert Rivera, and drummer Charles Loeber, started the night off by playing lovely versions of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “Skylark.”
Then, Vita West Muir, Founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Litchfield Performing Arts, Inc., welcomed the crowd, discussed the Jingle & Mingle event, and the “Giving Tree” items for sale. She brought saxophonist and Director of Operations of the Litchfield Jazz Camp (LJC), Albert Rivera, to the microphone. Rivera discussed the newest offerings, the opportunity to book an accomplished band. For $2,000, you can book The Albert Rivera Trio, The Alina Engibaryan Trio, Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack, or The Zaccai Curtis Duo for a private party or a public event. The proceeds go to support need-based scholarships to Litchfield Jazz Camp.
Singer Alina Engibaryan joined Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere for several duets that included James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” an intimate, affecting ballad with sultry vocals by Alina. Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings” featured excellent scatting by Alina, and Zwelakhe-Duma and Albert Rivera joined in with outstanding solos. On “Es Tarde,” Alina said that she doesn’t know the story behind the song, but she just loves it! She performed a beautifully romantic rendition.
Board President Peter Adomeit took the stage and said, “It’s so nice to see so many familiar faces.” He told the audience how important they are to the LJC. He also discussed how the Camp transforms lives, and how some Jazz Campers have become professional musicians, while others have gone on to other endeavors. However, whatever the trajectory of their careers, all of their lives have been enriched by their experiences at LJC. Then Board Member Justin Loeber came to the microphone and talked about his son Charlie’s great experiences at Jazz Camp, and Charlie’s lessons with his mentor, drummer Steve Johns. He also talked about the nurturing atmosphere at LJC. Then, he re-introduced his son, Charlie, who re-joined the group.
The concert resumed with “September In the Rain,” where Alina performed like it was second nature to her, and Doug Munro’s guitar licks added an extra dimension to the song. For the last song of the night, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” Alina once more sang with such great ease, that it was like she was born with a microphone in her hand! The whole band echoed Alina’s ease, and played with an assurance that was a pleasure to experience. The 2019 Jingle & Mingle was another highly successful and immensely enjoyable evening in the history of the Litchfield Jazz Festival.
Note: A recent email press release stated the following:
“At this moment, we are not anticipating any disruption to Litchfield Jazz Camp or Festival activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding this is a rapidly emerging situation – and things can always change – we are hopeful that this summer will herald a return to normalcy, celebrate gathering and togetherness, learning, creativity, and of course, the beauty of music. Live music – which is suffering right now.
It is our goal to first and foremost do our part to keep our campers, Festival goers, faculty, staff, and their loved ones safe and healthy. As this is a rapidly emerging situation, we are closely monitoring developments, CDC recommendations, and State/Federal mandates. We will continue to provide updates should it become necessary to make any additional changes.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.”
Until a few days ago, there was a scholarship fundraiser scheduled for Sunday, May 3, 2020, “Jazz & Friends.” This gala event was to be held at a gorgeous estate in South Kent, CT with a concert by the fabulous Grammy-nominated vocalist/pianist/composer/arranger Nicole Zuraitis. Nicole started at LJC at the age of 12, and she is now doing worldwide tours, and performing regularly at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. It hasn’t been stated yet whether this event will be re-scheduled for a later date.
At this writing, on July 25 and 26, the Litchfield Jazz Festival will be celebrating its 25th anniversary! For more information about the Litchfield Jazz Festival, go to www.litchfieldjazzfest.com.
For more information on LJC, go to: www.litchfieldjazzcamp.com.