Jul 27, 2014
The Newport Jazz Festival, the multi-day jazz festival held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The venerable festival was established in 1954 by socialite Elaine Lorillard, who, together with husband Louis Lorillard, financed the festival for many years. The couple hired jazz impresario George Wein to organize the event to help them bring jazz to the posh resort town.
The relationship between the tony town of Newport and the festival has often been rocky - the National Guard was called to calm spectators who created a major disturbance in 1960, resulting in cancellation of the 1961 event. The Festival returned in 1962, but was met with trepidation by the town leadership when Wein began bringing in rock, funk and jazz fusion acts for the Festival including Sly & the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin in 1969 and the Allman Brothers Band in 1971. The Festival was not welcomed back after those gigs led to massive trespassing and gate crashing.
The Festival moved to New York City in 1972, initially using a format involving multiple venues, including Yankee Stadium and Radio City Music Hall. It became a two-site festival in 1981 when it returned to Newport and also continued in New York. It’s been a New England summer institution since then, regularly packing them in to see music on three stages at Fort Adams State Park in Newport.
The Festival expands to three days of music this year, with a day of cutting-edge music on Friday August 1, highlighted by John Zorn’s Masada Marathon, featuring Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, Ikue Mori, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron, Kenny Wollesen and more. The world premiere of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker Project will take place that day, as will a set by Downbeat magazine’s newly appointed Queen of Jazz, Cecile McLorin Salvant. Friday night will be the annual indoor event at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino (the original site of the festival itself), starring Wynton Marsalis and Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Saturday will have a wide variety of talent, from favorites like Marsalis, the NewportNow060 Band and Dave Holland’s Prism to those whose talents are just reaching a wider audience, including Robert Glasper, Trombone Shorty and Gregory Porter. The SFJazz Collective performance should be a highlight, as should sets by Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band and the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet
Wrapping things up on Sunday will be some of the biggest names in history (Ron Carter, Lee Konitz, the Mingus Big Band, Dr. John); new groups from Gary Burton, David Sanborn, Vijay Iyer, and Danilo Perez; plus Wein himself, playing in an all-star setting with Anat Cohen, Randy Brecker, Lew Tabakin, Howard Alden and Jay Leonhardt.
The inimitable Danny Melnick books this show with his mentor George Wein, and helps us preview the Festival in Podcast 437. Musical selections from Festival players include:
John Zorn - "Orchestral Variations" from Fragmentations, Prayers and Interjections.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing - "Two Bppt Jacks" from This is Our Moosic.
Gregory Porter - "Moanin'" from Great Voices of Harlem.
Lee Konitz with Ethan Iverson, Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy "Blueberry Ice Cream - Take 2" from Costumes Are Mandatory