Like many other types of music throughout history, jazz -- now recognized as a legitimate art form -- was once marginalized as a form of rebellion. Here in Newport, we’re happy to have played our part in facilitating its transition to mainstream music genre through the iconic Newport Jazz Festival. Whether you’re a longtime jazz lover or just starting to discover the allures of this uniquely American music style, this year’s Newport Jazz Festival scheduled for August 3rd - August 5th at historic Fort Adams is a must attend event. The event features four stages of world class musicians, food, and crafts and a number of exhibits -- all set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Newport Bridge and the East Passage.
Revolution and Evolution
Originally dubbed the Annual American Jazz Festival, Newport’s inaugural go at making the case for jazz was held in 1954, and included performances by artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hackett, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, and Lennie Tristano. The next year, even more artists arrived on the scene, including everyone from Miles Davis to Thelonious Monk, not to mention Gerry Mulligan, Count Basie Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Dinah Washington, and the Louis Armstrong All Stars.
And while Newport’s own well-to-do denizens pushed back on what they viewed as an invasion of their upper-class environs, Madison Avenue jetsetters were drawn to the promise of so many musical luminaries in one place, and made Newport their destination. And so the festival continued to grow, with Duke Ellington himself declaring, “I was born at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956."
Riots, Revival and Rebirth
Evolution is a hallmark of growth, and the Newport Jazz Festival did just that -- integrating new musical genres, including gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock 'n' roll over the years. And while a few bumps in the road -- including rioting in 1960 which led to the penning of the Langston Hughes elegy ("It's a gloomy day at Newport, / It's a gloomy, gloomy day. / It's a gloomy day at Newport, / The music's going away.") and a one-year hiatus in 1961 -- are part of its dynamic history, so is resilience.
The festival returned in 1962 and the show has gone on in various incarnations since -- both in Newport and on other stages including everywhere from New York City to the White House, where Bill Clinton proclaimed on the festival’s 40th anniversary in 1993, “No event has done more to nurture the careers of jazz artists; non has done more to thrill and delight jazz fans. The festival’s influence has been truly profound, inspiring more than 2,000 other jazz festivals every year around the world.”
Jazz, Jazz and More Jazz
The Newport Jazz Festival's three day lineup of shows starts Friday at 11:00 am near the Harbor Stage. Friday's performances include a celebration of Charles Llyod's 80th Birthday, R+R=NOW, Still Dreaming and many more. Arriving later on? Across town, the ceremonial Friday evening concert at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino will feature performances by Pat Metheny and Lean on Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers. This venue is an open air stadium with a combination of covered and uncovered seating. A pre-concert cocktail party is also planned on the Horseshoe Piazza.
The action returns to Fort Adams on Saturday morning with performances by Andra Day, Jon Batiste and Grace Kelly. On the festival's final day, performances feature George Clinton & Parliament Funk, Gregory Porter and Artemis. Tickets are still on sale and start at $65 online/$75 at the gate for Friday. Looking to attend more than 1 day? GA 2-Day Tickets are $145 for Saturday and Sunday performances. GA 3-Day Tickets are $170 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances at Fort Adams.
Looking to make an extra-long weekend out of it? Don't miss the Newport Festival Foundation’s annual celebration, Bridgefest, which bridges together the week in between the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival. Performances began yesterday but will continue daily through Thursday, August 2nd. Highlights include Buskin' at Bowen's, Local Bridges: A Celebration of Rhode Island's Music Community and the Hors D'oeuvres Cruise.
Music is inextricably intertwined with Newport’s past, present and future. Which begs the question: Will you be part of music history-in-the-making this year?