For Connecticut jazz lovers 2014 brings us the summer of our content thanks to annual festivals presenting an array of premier performers ranging from the sensational, young vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant to the brilliant, groundbreaking violinist Regina Carter. This list only hints at the diverse riches available statewide this season at such major summer jazz fests as The Litchfield Jazz Festival on the Goshen Fairgrounds, The Hot Steamed Jazz Festival in Essex, Monday Night Jazz in Bushnell Park and The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, both free and outdoors in Hartford's Bushnell Park; and the free New Haven Jazz Festival on the New Haven Green.
Litchfield Jazz Festival
Just with its remarkable opening night fare alone on Aug. 8, the talent-laden, three-day, weekend Litchfield Jazz Festival immediately nails down two top picks for the season with a dazzling double bill featuring the skyrocketing Salvant and the commanding pianist Cyrus Chestnut. Cecile McLorin Salvant has a youthful passion for and an adult grasp of the historic vocal traditions of jazz, but also has a surprising bag full of fresh, innovative ideas entirely of her own making. A virtuoso with soul, Chestnut revels in creating a mammoth, classical sound on piano, an instrument he quite accurately regards as the equivalent of having a whole orchestra under his nimble fingertips. Tickets: Regular admission single day tickets start at $40 for lawn and $79 for tent seats. Information: www.litchfieldjazzfest.com and 860-361-6285.
The Hot Steamed Jazz Festival
If you're seeking quality, fun-filled trad jazz this summer, you should visit The Hot Steamed Jazz Festival in Essex, which, during its weekend bash June 20 to June 22, serves a rich gumbo of New Orleans-styled jazz, blues and swing performed by singers and instrumentalists from throughout the New England region.Two top picks among the performers are the Connecticut-based favorites, pianist Jeff Barnhart and The Galvanized Jazz Band. Barnhart, a musical maven from Mystic, also sings, composes, operates a record company and writes literary liner notes with wild narrative lines when not presenting solo concerts or leading his various combos. Although it has long been a venerable Connecticut musical institution, The Galvanized Jazz Band was, is now and always will be galvanized in its one true faith in fundamental trad jazz values. Tickets: single sessions $35. Information: www.hotsteamedjazz.com; 860-575-0215.
Monday Night Jazz
Once again, Hartford is the state's summer capital of free, outdoor mega-festivals, with the return of the Hartford Jazz Society's Monday Night Jazz in Bushnell Park, which runs July 7 through Aug. 11. The lineup includes headliners drummer Yoron Israel, who leads his quartet July 7, and by the multi-faceted music maker and pianist Marc Cary, who leads his trio July 14. Information: http://www.hartfordjazzsociety.com.
Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz
Always offering its audience saucy servings of contemporary jazz and cool confections of smooth jazz with a hearty side-dish of classy mainstream acts as well, the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz free weekend bash in Bushnell Park, July 18 through July 20, also splits a Top-10 plaudit, shared equally by contemporary sax king David Sanborn, The Sultan of Soulful Smoothness, who performs July 18, and the hard-swinging, modern jazz tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson on July 20. Information: www.hartfordjazz.com.
The New Haven Jazz Festival
This premier free, outdoor bash, which is scheduled for Aug. 16 on the New Haven Green, earns a Top-10 pick for its headlining act, the noted bassist Nat Reeves with his quartet featuring the forever hard-burning pianist Harold Mabern. Information: www.jazzhaven.org.
Although New Haven's culturally all-encompassing International Festival of Arts and Ideas, which runs June 14 through June 28, is not a jazz festival, it easily sweeps up three of the summer season's Top-10 performers. Among the festival's jazz trifecta is the great jazz diva Dianne Reeves performing June 21 in a free concert on the New Haven Green, accompanied by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. Another festival coup features the cutting-edge cellist Erik Friedlander presenting an original, memoir-like work on June 14 at the Iseman Theater. Friedlander's never bittersweet suite recollections, "Block Ice & Propane," were inspired by his experiences as a child travelling on an epic, eye-opening family road trip across the United States with his famous photographer father, Lee Friedlander, at the wheel and behind the camera capturing resonant images of Americana. His performance is presented in association with the Yale University Art Gallery's admission-free exhibition, "Jazz Lives: The Photographs of Lee Friedlander and Milt Hinton," which runs through Sept. 7 (Tickets: $22.50 to $61). And the third is Regina Carter, a MacArthur "genius fellow" and one of the world's most ingenious contemporary jazz violinists who plays June 17 at Morse Recital Hall (Tickets: 22.50 to $61). An often ecstatic eclectic, Carter will celebrate folk tunes that her paternal grandfather would have heard in the South back in the day, everything from Cajun fiddle music and early gospel sounds to coal miner's work songs. Information: www.artidea.org.