In 2013, guitarist/educator and Litchfield Jazz Camp faculty member, Doug Munro, helped us realize a dream. Doug proposed to arrange for Big Band Django Reinhardt’s gypsy-inspired music and launch the very first performance of Litchfield Jazz Orchestra. The Orchestra comprised Camp faculty members and a few outstanding students. LJO made its first appearance at the 2014 Litchfield Jazz Festival with Doug soloing and Jamie Begian, Director of Jazz at Western CT State University, conducting. The audience loved it and so did we. Now its an annual tradition.
In 2015 the LJO paid tribute to the music of the late, great Connecticut saxophonist, Thomas Chapin, under the baton of trumpeter Dave Ballou. In 2016, the Camp’s Music Director and super saxophonist Don Braden arranged music from Earth Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder. Our friend Frank Alkyer rose to the occasion and named this one for us: Earth, Wind & Wonder. In the summer of 2017, we turned the baton over to pianist Jen Allen who was excited to take on the assignment of morphing the music of Carly Simon and Carole King into genuine jazz. She did it brilliantly, writing all the arrangements, leading the band, sometimes from the keyboard. Vocals were rendered by Nicole Zuraitis (who leads our Jazz Camp vocal faculty), and Jen invited a special guest: 11-year-old prodigy pianist (and Litchfield Jazz Camper) Brandon Goldberg.
For the 2018 Festival we have invited the very talented pianist/composer/arranger/and record company co-founder (and, you guessed it,Litchfield Jazz Camper from back in the day) Zaccai Curtis. Zaccai will create the first Latin jazz program for the LJO.. He’ll salt favorites with his own award-winning originals: he won this year’s prestigious Doris Duke /Chamber Music America New Works grant for his original work.
After graduating from New England Conservatory in 2005, Zaccai moved to New York City where he performs regularly with Donald Harrison, Cindy Blackman Santana, Eddie Palmieri, Christian Scott, Ralph Peterson, T.K. Blue, Brian Lynch, Ray Vega, and Eric Person, and others.
Curtis composes and arranges for his own quartet, trio, Big-Band and more. In 2003, he was named a winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Competition and received the honor each year through 2006. The Curtis Brothers Quartet was selected by the U.S. State Department to participate in the American Music Abroad (Jazz Ambassadors) program for two tours in 2006. They toured in Bangladesh, Calcutta, Bangalore, Mumbai, Sri Lanka and Maldives. In 2007, he was awarded the ‘Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism’s Artist Fellowship’ for ‘original composition.’
Zaccai performs his own music with the Curtis Brothers Quartet and recently released Syzygy(2017) following three successful releases: A Genesis, Blood Spirit Land Water Freedom and Completion of Proof, all on his own Truth Revolution Label. Zaccai, along with brother Luques, has developed a recording collective of musicians who produce music on their own terms. He calls it Truth Revolution Recording Collective. He is proud to have produced a Grammy-nominated album, Entre Colegas, released on the label in 2016. This year, he created the first-ever music news app—TRRcollective—available on iTunes and android.
Zaccai Curtis first attended Jazz Camp at age 13 and returned for most of his teen years. He currently serves on the Litchfield Jazz Camp faculty. Stay tuned for this year’s Litchfield Jazz Orchestra members!
Its a pleasure to have Zaccai create the Litchfield Jazz Orchestra’ fourth annual performance.