The Newport Jazz Festival’s appeal is two-pronged: There are the bookings, a healthy stylistic spread offering a fine survey of what jazz currently means, and the setting, namely the picturesque environs of historic Fort Adams State Park. For the first half of Friday, opening day, heavy rains didn’t do the latter any favors. But the music forged ahead, as always. We heard soul-deep swing, in the Heath Brothers and an excellent set by the young pianist Sullivan Fortner; expertly wrought Caribbean-jazz fusion from Etienne Charles & Creole Soul; heavy-grooving 21st-century jazz-rock in acts like Kneebody and the Donny McCaslin Group; avant-garde music by Steve Coleman & Five Elements, Tyshawn Sorey & Alloy and Eric Revis’ Parallax that was equally thoughtful and visceral; and the Newport debut of saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose hard-charging, high-volume set matched an Impulse! influence with that of ’70s R&B and the intensity of a contemporary brass band.
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