Jul 19, 2013
09:49 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Free Hartford Jazz Festival Stretches Through Sunday at Bushnell Park

Free Hartford Jazz Festival Stretches Through Sunday at Bushnell Park

Merriam-Webster says jazz is “American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre.”

Sure. But jazz—by definition—can’t be bound by a definition. Contained within the music is culture, history, tradition, freedom, hopes, dreams, memories, desires and so much more. It’s like a rhythmic lifeblood for Americans with a sense of soul, in the broadest interpretation of that term.

And jazz abides—and one places it abides is Hartford.

Go back a decade, maybe two, and there in that beautiful basement club called Lloyds the brilliant late drummer Tony Williams delivered forceful, rollicking sets with impeccably dressed sidemen masterfully backing him. One of the best was saxophonist Billy Pierce.

The jazz ties that bind bring back Billy Pierce this weekend, performing Sunday evening with the Steve Davis All-Star Sextet as part of The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, running from tonight (July 19) through Sunday.

It’s al fresco in the Connecticut capital’s landmark Bushnell Park—and it’s free.

What could be better on sweltering summer days dissolve into sensual evenings that positively glow before the sun goes down? All you need to know is online at the festival’s website.

Meanwhile, here’s the lineup:


Friday, July 19th


Gates Open - Marketplace and Food Vendors



6:30pm - 7:00pm

Opening Ceremony




Ed Byrne’s Latin Jazz Evolution




Arturo Sandoval

Saturday, July 20th


Gates Open - Marketplace and Food Vendors




Ace Livingston



6:00pm - 10:30pm

The New Urban Jazz Party Featuring:




Bob Baldwin & Walter Beasley




Tom Browne & Eric Darius




The New Urban Jazz Jam featuring Bob Baldwin, Walter Beasley, Tom Browne, Eric Darius.




Motown Dance Party featuring Jus Us Band

Sunday, July 21st


Mass - Ross Tucker's Hot Cat Dixieland Jazz Band,
Christ Church Cathedral, 45 Church Street, Downtown Hartford




Gates Open - Marketplace and Food Vendors




Toscha Comeaux




“Passing The Torch” 3 Generations, multiple artists




The Steve Davis All-Star Sextet featuring Larry Willis
Steve Davis-trombone, Billy Pierce-tenor sax, Josh Bruneau-trumpet, Larry Willis-piano, Peter Washington-bass, Billy "The Kid" Williams-drums

And, from the website, a bit of the history: “The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz is a non-profit organization originally conceived by Paul Brown, noted Hartford jazz bassist and music educator. For 25 years, Paul had produced the Monday Night Jazz Concerts in Bushnell Park, drawing thousands of music lovers to Hartford’s Bushnell Park for picnics and world-class entertainment. That first Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, in July of 1992, was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of those wonderful summers. 

Paul gathered some friends to help plan that first festival, but ultimately turned the Festival over to a Board of Directors comprised of volunteers from the Central Connecticut area, who continued to fulfill his dream of a world-class jazz event in Hartford, while he concentrated on his professional career and the Monday Night Jazz Concerts. Now in its twentieth year, this free-of-charge Festival is supported by small and medium-sized charitable gifts and donations from foundations, businesses and corporations as well as City of Hartford and State of Connecticut grants. The Festival is also generously supported by contributions from individual jazz lovers throughout the region.

Notable performers at the Festival have included: The McCoy Tyner Big Band and Arturo Sandoval (1993); The Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington (1994); The George Shearing Quintet (1995); Nancy Wilson (1996); The Heath Brothers and John Hendricks (1997); Dave Brubeck (1998); Marion Meadows and The Dizzy Gillespie All Stars under the direction of Jon Fadis (1999); John Scofield, Chuck Mangione, the Ramsey Lewis Trio and Nicholas Payton (2000); Gerald Albright and Herbie Mann (2001); Phil Woods, Bobby Caldwell and Joe Sample (2002); Billy Taylor, Sonny Fortune and Euge Groove (2003); Joey DeFrancesco, Byron Stripling and Peter White (2004); Ahmad Jamal and newcomer Eric Darius (2005); Kim Waters and the Woody Herman Big Band (2006); Pamela Williams and Kevin Mahogany & The Kansas City Review (2007); Jeff Lorber, Nick Colionne and Kendrick Oliver & the New Life Orchestra (2008); Paul “Shiltz” Weimar, Bobby Lyle, Bob Baldwin, Azar Lawrence and The Rippingtons (2009);

The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz has grown to be the largest FREE jazz event in New England, with an average attendance of over 45,000, and attracting more than 55,000 fans during the three day Festival in 2012!”

And, finally, to whet the appetite, a look at a featured festival artist, the legendary Arturo Sandoval.

Free Hartford Jazz Festival Stretches Through Sunday at Bushnell Park

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