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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

Charles Lloyd at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival
Charles Lloyd at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival (photo: Marek Lazarski)

The saxophone legend turned 80 in March, so the fest celebrated by designating him “Artist in Residence,” and opened the doors to three distinct performances whose only through-line was the birthday boy’s propulsive personality. Lloyd’s provocative flute playing marked Friday’s Sangam show. Tabla master Zakir Hussain, trap drummer Eric Harland, and Lloyd have worked their trio magic for more than a decade now and their chemistry is enviable. Prayer-like rambles were driven by sublime interplay, and even the more furious moments carried a sense of calm. On Saturday, Lloyd’s New Quartet made a case for being the most vital mainstream jazz outfit operating today. Hard swing, dreamy expeditions, gripping abstraction—pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and Harland helped their boss dig deep while keeping transcendence in the cross-hairs. Their curlicue bop frolic blended the freight-train kick of Bud Powell with the warmth of a Santa Barbara night breeze. Sunday, it was roadhouse time. Lloyd’s version of bar band blues, occasionally enhanced by Lucinda Williams’ gnarled vocals and arcadian sentiment, gave the audience a dose of rock ’n’ roll it willingly accepted, pinpointing the essence of everything from broadsides to Blind Willie Johnson.

Originally Published

Jim Macnie

Jim Macnie is a music writer who contributes to DownBeat and blogs at Lament For a Straight Line. He’s been working in digital media since since 2000, initially as’s Managing Editor and, currently, as a Senior Producer and Editor at Vevo. He enjoys Little Jimmie Dickens, Big Joe Turner and Medium Medium.