Photo Gallery: The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz 2014
New England's largest free jazz festival
Set in Bushnell Park, against the backdrop of the Capitol Hill in downtown Hartford, the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz—the New England region’s largest completely free jazz festival—is now in its 23rd year. The festival is made possible by the dedication of an all-volunteer team, donations, sponsors, and City and State grants.
The weekend started Friday evening with Grammy-nominated pianist Manuel Valera and the New Cuban Express. The organizers said they wanted to make the first night big, and they did not fail to deliver. Saxophonist David Sanborn delivered an exciting set with Ricky Peterson on keyboards, Nicky Moroch on guitar, Andre Berry on bass and Jay Williams on drums. Sanborn also entertained the crowd with his fond, yet humorous recollections of the Woodstock Festival in 1969 when he played with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Late Saturday afternoon, Connecticut-based saxophonist David Davis energized the crowd with his infectious soulful sax. Local favorites La Orquestra Espada kept the crowd moving with their own blend of salsa and Brazilian beats. Dancers Alisa Bowens and Estifanos Habetmichael also performed with the band.
Urban Jazz Coaltion, led by Phil Raney, delivered funky bass lines to an eclectic range of tunes from their original works to their finale, which included covers of Weather Report’s iconic “Birdland” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” As night began to fall, Jazz All Stars Marion Meadows on soprano saxophone, Brian Simpson on keyboards and Kim Waters on saxophone each gave memorable performances. The evening concluded with dance performance by Side Street and Jus Us, performing some old school funk and soul.
Sunday’s main pavilion featured Sherry Winston, Javon Jackson and Azar Lawrence, who completed the weekend’s festivities. The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz not only expresses a deep commitment to the art and soul of live jazz, but also represents a superb community event, which still attracts plenty of out-of-towners. Total attendance was estimated at 70,000 for this year’s event.