Top 10 Moments of the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival

From bent bop to old-school blues to pulse and skronk, this year’s fest had a lot going for it

Wandering the grounds of Fort Adams during the Newport Jazz Festival is like cruising through a mixtape that a perceptive pal made for you. The selections are inspired, the change-ups come fast, and surprises await. This year’s three-day event, sponsored by Natixis Investment Managers (shout-out to any entity that dumps loot into the laps of improvisers), was no different. It boasted an array of talent and a wealth of perspectives. Executive producer Jay Sweet, artistic director Christian McBride, and festival founder George Wein pride themselves on covering lots of ground, and for the last two years, their curation chops have been strong. There are four stages on site at this late date, ranging from Storyville’s intimate indoor confines to the open expanse of the majestic Fort setting, whose vistas open west to the island of Jamestown and north up Narragansett Bay. The weather was radiant—except for Saturday’s near-apocalyptic downpour. Here’s a JazzTimes 10’s worth of impressive snapshots from a weekend rich with invention.

Joshua Redman at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival
Still Dreaming’s Joshua Redman at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival (photo: Marek Lazarski)

STILL DREAMING
Aesthetic repertory, trickle-down style. The newish ensemble of Josh Redman, Brian Blade, Ron Miles, and Scott Colley genuflect to Old and New Dreams, who during the ’80s you’ll recall genuflected to Team Ornette. The foursome’s bent-bop was rigorous and genial—always a sweet combo when delivered with the kind of authority they brought to bear on the Quad stage. Precision has its fruits, and during Don Cherry’s “Guinea” each twist and turn picked up more and more emotional clout thanks to the group’s deep unison work. Politics found a place, too, as Redman annotated the title of his father Dewey’s “Walls – Bridges” with the remark that these days we find ourselves having to decide whether “we’re going to build more of one or the other.”