60 Years Looks Good on the Newport Jazz Festival

August 1- 3, 2014

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The Newport Jazz Festival kicked off its 60th anniversary with a stellar lineup of young and up-and-coming artists, as well as a few favorites. The three-day festival began on Friday afternoon at Fort Adams, with fantastic music on three stages. he venue is one of a kind overlooking the Narragansett Bay, at Fort Adams State Park.On Friday evening, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and also Dee Dee Bridgewater performed at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Festival producer, co-founder and pianist George Wein, now 88, was seen throughout the three-day event, performing on stage, posing for photos with admirers and engaging in conversation with the musicians.

FRIDAY

On Friday, the weather was perfect; sunny skies and a nice breeze blowing from across the bay. NBC news anchor Lester Holt, also a bassist, sat down with George Wein for a special report that aired on Saturday's "Nightly News" of Festival's 60th anniversary. Lester interviewed George Wein on the Fort Stage, then performed with George and Berklee College of Music drummer Jharis Yokley. This was really a special treat, not to be missed.

Next, the Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors featuring composer, tenor saxophonist, David Sánchez, kicked off the first performance on the Fort Stage. Sánchez expressed how exciting it was to work with the musicians for the first time and the pieces performed were all Sánchez’s original compositions written specifically for the Festival’s 60th anniversary. The set included 'Morning Mist', 'The Forgotten Ones’, ‘Mirage',
‘Endless Wait’', 'A Thousand Yesterdays'. The band members are Mao Sone, trumpet; Leandro Pellegrino, Guitar; Takafumi Suenaga, piano; Jared Henderson, bass and Jharis Yokley, drums.

The stunningly versatile vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant’s set included the title song from her debut album ‘Woman Child’, ‘Nobody’, ‘If this isn’t Love’, ‘What is Matter’, ‘Growlin’ and an encore- ‘Something Coming’. The trio included pianist Aaron Diehl , bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers.

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society performed ‘Ferromagnetic’, ‘All In’, ‘Code Breaker’, ‘Tensile Curves’ and ‘Last Waltz for Levon’.

Alto saxophosist, composer and band leader Miguel Zenón and The "Identities" Big Band performed all new compositions which Zenón described as identifiying with the changing Puerto Rican culture. The set included Through Culture and Tradition’, “Same Fight’, ‘My Home’and ‘First Language’. Band Members are Will Vinson, alto saxophone; Michael Thomas, alto saxophone; John Ellis, tenor saxophone ;Samir Zarif, tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek, baritone saxophone;Mat Jodrell, trumpet; Jonathan Powell, trumpet; Michael Rodriguez, trumpet ;Alexander Norris, trumpet; Tim Albright, trombone; Alan Ferber, trombone; Ryan Keberle, trombone; Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; and Henry Cole, drums.

On the Harbor Stage, alto saxophonist, composer Rudresh Mahanthappa's described his Charlie Parker Project as a world premier, with a unique perspective on “Bird” through new music inspired by Parker’s phrasing. The set included ‘On the DL.’,
'Gopuram’, 'Maybe Later’; ‘Talin is Thinking’, ‘Chillin’, ‘Both Hands’. The band included Adam O'Farrill, trumpet; Matt Mitchell, piano; Francois Moutin, bass and Rudy Royston, drums.

Closing out the Fort stage with swinging, high energy was pianist, composer, vocalist, New Orlean’s own Jon Batiste and Stay Human. They had the crowd on their feet for the entire set playing turbocharged versions of standards, rags and his own party anthems. Batiste lead the band on melonica, accompanied by tambourine, tuba and vocals on ‘My Favorite Things’ and “Sunny side of the Street’. It was as if we were strutting down bourbon street with a hurricane drink, and a bowl of gumbo! The set also included ‘People in the World’; Shreeve Port Stump’; and ‘Why you Gotta be Like That’.Mebers of the band are Alto Sax - Eddie Barbash, alto saxophone; Ibanda Ruhumbika, Tuba, and Joe Saylor, drums.

Playing Newport Jazz Festival for the first time ever, and closing out the Quad stage, Grammy-Award winner, Snarky Puppy the jazz-funk-rock, was a crowd pleaser. Their set included ‘What about Us’; ‘Kite’; ‘Lingus’; ‘Quantum Physics’; ‘Shofukan’; ‘Young Stuff’. The band includes Michael League, lead/bass, Chris Bullock ,Mike "Maz" Maher, Corey Henry, organ;; Bob Lanzetti ; Mark Lettieri; Justin Stanton; Robert "Sput" Searight. The musicians perform on a variety of instruments including guitars, pianos, keyboards, woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings.

SATURDAY

On Saturday, although there were downpours of rain, that did not keep the audience away. The music made us feel like the sun was shining all day. Drummer, composer, Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band opened the Quad Stage. Band members were Jon Cowherd, piano; Chris Thomas, bass; Melvin Butler, tenor saxophone; Myron Walden, alto saxophone. Blade’s group took on a spiritual sound from the start, with the arcing melody lines and slow-boil dynamics of original epic Americana hymn tunes. Walden and Butler’s interwoven saxophone lines were delightful, as were the piano and guitar unisons. But it was the pristine sound of Blade’s drumming that stole the show with his unique way of rolling the toms and exploding cymbals. The set included ‘Stoner Hill’; ‘Lardmarks ‘; ‘Ark –L9 – Tex’; and ‘Let The Light Shine Again’.

Despite the rain, the Robert Glasper Experiment performed with high energy on the Fort satge and the crowd love it. The band included Robert Glasper, piano, Casey Benjamin, saxophone; Burniss Travis, bass; and Mark Colenburg, drums. The set included ‘No Church in the Wild; ‘Let it Ride’; ‘Lift Off ‘; ‘Stand Alone’; ‘Lovely Day’; and ‘All Matter’.

The rain seemed to almost disappear when Grammy nominated jazz vocalist, Gregory Porter graced the Fort Stage, with his deep jazz and blues sensibilities. Porter was joined by his extremely talented quartet, featuring Yosuke Sato on alto saxophone, Chip Crawford on piano, Aaron James on bass, and Emanuel Harrold on drums. They took the stage opening with Porter’ delivering jaw-dropping vocals. On ‘Water’ As the show progressed, Porter and his quartet amazed the audience with demonstrations of their musical finesse.

As they performed a signature tune, “On My Way to Harlem”, Porter and Sato displayed their strong harmonious connection to the song, which spread throughout the crowd. Pianist Crawford showed off his piano skills with several solos, including "Work Song" which brought an immediate uproar of applause when Crawford jammed chord after chord. Bassist James and drummer Clemens; each offered their own influence on the performance with multiple solos. The band also performed ‘No Love Dying’; ‘Liquid Spirit’; and ‘Wolf Cry’and ‘1960 What’. Porter sang a special birthday tribute to his wife with ‘I Love You For Sentimental Reasons’ and Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’, while several couples shared a tender dance.

Leading his 15-man Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra , Grammy award-winning composer, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, provided this audience with an exciting afternoon of Jazz music – from Swing to the Avant-Garde. As the band graced the stage, Marsalis stated that it is a great honor to be here on the 60th anniversary and that the band was going to have great time “swinging it up in here”.

The orchestra paid homage to Jazz historyt, with a mixture of new arrangements on Jazz standards made famous by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver, as well as original compositions by members of the orchestra. Their repertoire ranged from the 1920s to the 1960s, with lots of swing and featured solos by band members. The arrangements were so elegant with magnificent improvisations and solos by Marsalis, who was comfortably settled in with the trumpet section. It’s amazing to watch this accomplished band work so well together without anyone standing out front conducting.

The band opened the set with an original composition by Marsalis entitled ‘Knozz Moe King’ from the 1983 album Think of One, displaying its diversity of instrumentation on flutes, clarinets and muted brass which added so many layers of sound to this piece. Trombonist Chris Crenshaw was featured on his original composition entitled " The Block”, inspired by painter Romare Bearden’s The Block, which celebrates a Harlem neighborhood.

The Horace Silver tune ‘Cape Verdean Blues’.was a poignant tribute to the great and recently departed pianist, was followed by, as Marsalis described “ a tune from the old testament of Count Basie” - a sultry blues ballad "I Left My Baby (Standing in the Back Door Crying)," sung by trombonist Chris Crenshaw. Other selections included Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’; ‘Yes Sir, That’s My Baby’;’Love Supreme, A: Movement II, Resolution’; and Black, Brown and Beige: Movement III, Symphonette. The stellar orchestra included Trumpets - Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup,and Kenny Rampton; Tromones- Vincent R. Gardner, Elliot Mason, and Chris Crenshaw; Saxaphones - Sherman Irby, Kurt Bacher, saxophones, clarinet ; Walter Blanding, tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet;Victor Goines, tenor and soprano saxophones, Bb and bass clarinets ; Paul Nedzela, baritone and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet ;Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass and Ali Jackson, drums.

The Quad Stage continued to swing with the SF JAZZ Collective, featuring Miguel Zenón, saxophone; Avishai Cohen, Trumpet; David Sanchez, tenor saxophone; Robin Eubanks, trombone; Warren Wolf, vibes; Edward Simon, piano; Matt Penman, piano and Obed Calvaire, drums. Tunes included ‘Armageddon’,
'Frosted Evils’,‘More Than Meets The Bar’, Song for My Father and ‘Crystal Silence’.

The great double bassist and bandleader Dave Holland and his Prism quartet delivered a Jazz fusion-packed set that left the audience wanting more. With guitarist Kevin Eubanks, Craig Tabern on acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, and Eric Harland on drums, the band performed a swinging set with everyone contributing tunes. The set included two original Holland compositions – ‘A New Day’ and ‘The Empty Chair’, Evolution’ composed by Kevin Eubanks, “the Watcher’ and ‘Verify’.

On the Harbor Stage, Newport Now 60 Band played a very tight set featuring Dan Tepfer on piano, Anat Cohen, clarinet; Randy Brecker, trumpet; Mark Whitfield, guitar; Peter Martin, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Clarence Penn; drums; Karrin Allyson, vocals.Tunes included ‘Blues Connotation’, ‘Can’t We Be Friends’', 'Brakes Salce / Teo’ and ‘Cuba / New Orleans’.

SUNDAY

Sunday started off with intermittent sprinkles.The Fort Stage lineup included the Brubeck Brothers, Mingus Big Band, David Sanborn-Joey DeFrancesco pairing, and Bobby McFerrin.

The all-star ensemble the Cookers opened the Quad Stage, featuring The Cookers: Donald Harrison Jr. alo saxophone; Billy Harper, tenor saxophone; Eddie Henderson, trumpet; David Weiss, trumpet; George Cables, piano Cecil McBee, bass; and Billy Hart, drums. Selectons included ‘Capra Black’, ‘Peacemaker’,‘Croquette Ballet’, ’Farewell Mulgrew and ‘The Core’.

Pianist Vijay Iyer’s sextet delivered a powerful be-bop set with Mark Shim, tenor saxophone; Steve Lehman, soprano saxophone, Stephan Crump, bass, Marcus Gilmore, drums; Graham Haynes son of Roy, on cornet and flugelhorn.

George Wein and the Newport All-Stars where also swinging with, George Wein, piano/vocals; Anat Cohen, Clarinet, Tenor Sax; Howard Alden, guitar; Randy Brecker, trumpet; Lew Tabackin,Tenor Sax; Jay Leonhart, Bass; Clarence Penn, drums. The set included ‘Johnny Comes Lately’, ‘The Mooche Ellington’, ‘Sweet and Lovely’.

On the Harbor Stage, Ravi Coltrane delivered a dazzling performance as he demonstrated just how grounded he is in his roots of is tone, sound and improvisation. His quartet included Ralph Alessi , trumpet; Kush Abadey, drums and Matt Brewer, bass. Selections included ‘13th Floor’,‘Who Wants Ice Cream’,
‘For Turiya’ and ‘Segment’.

Founded in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival was the first annual jazz festival in America. Historic moments since its inception include performances by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Referred to as the grandfather of all jazz festivals, the event draws thousands of people from all over the world to Newport, Rhode Island each year. The total attendance for the three-day event was more than 10,000.

More photos from the festival are at Ben Johnson's online photo gallery Ben Johnson's 2014 Newport Jazz Festival Photos

1 Comment

  • Sep 04, 2014 at 03:29AM laal

    This event has produced some of my favorite live recordings over the years !

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.