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Newport Jazz Festival Makes a Four-Pronged Pivot

Radio broadcasts of archival recordings, a virtual gala, and a streaming film attempt to fill the hole left by COVID-19

Christian McBride
Christian McBride

As is increasingly the rule in 2020, jazz festivals that are unable to hold live events are turning to alternative ways to keep their name and presence before audiences. The Newport Jazz Festival, however, is taking perhaps the most ambitious route yet: a four-pronged initiative involving radio, a virtual meetup, and a streaming film.

The “Newport Jazz Revival 2020” began on July 24 as a substitute for the live Rhode Island event, originally scheduled for August 6-8 before the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation. Its first prong is a three-part special installment of NPR Music’s radio program Jazz Night in America, in which host Christian McBride, who is also Newport’s artistic director, curates a selection of classic sets from the festival’s extensive audio archive. The first episode, which aired July 24, included performances by the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and the Horace Silver Quintet. The second episode, which airs July 31 at 11 p.m. ET (with a rebroadcast at 6 p.m. on August 1) includes Ray Charles’ and the Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s 1960 festival appearances, Sarah Vaughan performing in 1964, Duke Ellington in 1968, and Louis Armstrong in 1970. A third episode airs on August 7 at 11 p.m./August 8 at 6 p.m.

More archived festival performances will broadcast over the originally scheduled weekend of the festival. This time, Newark radio station WBGO-FM will air two four-hour blocks of historic recordings from Newport—August 8 at 6 p.m. and August 9 at 12 p.m., respectively—again hosted by McBride.

Also on August 8, the Newport Festivals Foundation’s annual gala will take place in a virtual environment. At 7 p.m., donors of $250 or more can attend the online program, featuring McBride, Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein, among others.

Finally, on August 9 at 7 p.m., Jazz Together—a short film celebrating the festival (and the advocacy work of the Newport Festivals Foundation)—premieres on the Newport Jazz Festival’s Facebook Live and YouTube pages.

Attendees and jazz fans are encouraged to make tax-deductible donations to the Newport Festivals Foundation.