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Greater Hartford Jazz Festival Strikes A Chord With Music Lovers

CHRISTOPHER KEATING

July 18, 2010

HARTFORD Bushnell Park was filled with the sounds of jazz in the summer sun Sunday as the three-day Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz brought thousands of music lovers to the capital city.

Bands belted out songs on a stage near the Memorial Arch as vendors nearby sold everything from hats and handbags to shirts and jewelry.

The Ross Novgrad Latin Jazz Quintet brought smiles to the crowd by finishing their set with the popular "Oye Como Va,'' a tune written by Tito Puente that burst into the American consciousness when performed four decades ago by Santana.

"I played with Tito Puente in the early 1970s,'' said Hartford resident Ray Gonzalez, a trumpet player for the past 40 years. "He wrote the song, but Santana made it famous.''

After playing in New York City and Puerto Rico through the years, Gonzalez returned to his current hometown Sunday to play with the Novgrad Quintet in the 19th annual festival. The quintet was among about a dozen groups that performed over the three days.

"I gotta run,'' Gonzalez said as he ended an interview. "I've got to do a show in Boston later today.''

Gonzalez, who is approaching 60 years old, was followed by members of the Canton High School Jazz Ensemble. One of them, 18-year-old Jackson FitzGerald, has been playing the jazz guitar since he was 12 years old, and he said it was a thrill to be playing at the festival for the first time. A recent graduate, FitzGerald is heading to the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the fall.

Nicole Glander, a spokeswoman for the event, said an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 fans were expected over the three days.

"The festival continues to grow, so the crowds continue to grow,'' Glander said.

This year's finale on the main stage was by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra with local tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm.

The jazz festival "didn't get noticed for quite a few years, but now we're on the radar,'' Glander said. "It's becoming more of a household name. It's catching eyes.''

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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