2011 Newport Jazz Festival Review - Legends and Newcomers Shine!

Review by Karen Brundage-Johnson & Photos by Ben Johnson

The 57th annual Newport Jazz Festival took place on August 5 -7, 2010. Grammy-award winner composer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis kicked-off the festival on Friday night at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Marsalis’ quintet was tight and performed beautifully on classic jazz tunes such as “All of Me”, “Autumn Leaves”, and “April In Paris”, all with a taste of “New Orleans” style that Marsalis is well known for. The band also performed on the Fort Main Stage on Saturday.

On Saturday, the weather was perfect as festival goers arrived at Fort Adams State Park ready to enjoy performances on three stages overlooking the Narragansett Bay. Upon arrival at the gate, attendees were treated to a special keepsake silver charm attached to their wrist ID band, courtesy of one of the festival sponsors Alex and Ani, a local Newport jewelry manufacturer. This unique charm is inscribed with a picture of a trumpet and the festival signature logo.

Violinist, composer Regina Carter and her unique band Reverse Thread opened on the Fort Stage. The performance included tunes with easy, pleasant rhythms. The band included Yacouba Sissoko on the kora (the West African harp traditionally played by village storytellers), Will Holshouser playing the accordion, Chris Lightcap on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums and percussion.

Also opening on the Quad and Harbor stages, for the first time were the quartet Mostly Other Do The Killing and New Black Eagle Jazz Band, who have been performing traditional New Orleans jazz for more than 30 years.

Grammy-award winner, composer and pianist Eddie Palmieri and his Latin Jazz Band received a standing ovation immediately when the band walked on stage. The audience packed the seating at the Quad stage to enjoy Palmieri's sultry piano Latin rhythms. Later, on the same stage, Grammy-award winner bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding and Friends performed to an overflowing crowd that appeared to be a significant part of the Saturday attendees.

Pianist Hiromi Uehara, who has played Newport several times, performed a set of solo material on the Fort stage.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Orleans Avenue, were an amazing group of talented, energetic twenty and thirty somethings that got the audiences out of their seats and dancing at the Quad stage. Andrews is an excellent jazz trombonist and singer who hails from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans. The band included Tim McFatter, tenor saxophone; Dan Oestreicher, baritone saxophone; Peter Murano, guitar; Michael Ballard, bass; Robert Peebles, drums; Dwayne Williams, percussion.

Composer, pianist, legend Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio closed the Quad stage on Saturday evening. Weston spoke about the African traditions in his music including his African Song Book suite. The set included tunes “Tanger Bay”, “Berkshire Blues”, “African Lady”, ‘3 pyramids and a Sphinx” with Alex Blake laying down a mean bass solo and Neil Clarke on percussion

The Newport Jazz festival continues to showcase the best and the newest jazz performers. More than 7,500 attended the festival on Saturday. With a new corporate sponsor, Natixis Global Asset Management, I’m certain that everyone will look forward to the 2012 season of this great jazz festival tradition in Newport, Rhode Island. See you next year!

Photos by Ben Johnson

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Community Authors

Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.