The Carefusion Newport Jazz Festival is in its 56th year on August 6- 8, 2010. The festival always attracts big name artists and up-and-coming musicians too. There are three stages with music to please everyone’s palette. The venue is one of a kind overlooking the Narragansett Bay, at Fort Adams State Park. This is the most picture-perfect setting for a jazz festival. More than 10,000 attended the festival.
On Saturday, the weather spectacular with a nice breeze flowing in from the bay. The festival opened at 11:00am on the newly added Quad Stage. The Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College of Music Septet treated us to some wonderful music. Matthew Halpin, tenor saxophone; Hailey Niswanger, alto saxophone; Andrew Burglass, guitar; Christian Li, piano; Greg Chaplin, bass; Jorge Perez, percussion; Mark Whitfield Jr., drums. Their first selection was entitled “The Beach: written by Halpin. Second selection was entitled “Sympathetic”. written by Li.
The tenor saxophonist JD Allen and his trio played classic melodies with beautiful solos. Each of Allen’s compositions folded into the next with beautiful temp changes and phrasing and tonality, which could be compared to John Coltrane. The group featured Gregg August, bass; and Rudy Royston, drums.
On the Fort Main Stage Maria Schneider led her big band ensemble with Afro-Peruvian sounds that were very rich; offered much variety and solos. Maria Schneider, conductor; Steve Wilson, alto saxophone/reeds; Charles Pillow, alto saxophone/reeds; Rich Perry, tenor saxophone/reeds; Donny McCaslin, tenor saxophone/reeds; Scott Robinson, baritone saxophone/reeds; Tony Kadleck, trumpet; Greg Gisbert, trumpet; Laurie Frink, trumpet; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Keith O’Quinn, trombone; Ryan Keberle, trombone; Tim Albright, trombone; George Flynn, bass trombone; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Ron Oswanski, accordion; Lage Lund, guitar; Jay Anderson, bass; Clarence Penn, drums; Jon Wikan, percussion; Gonzalo Grau, percussion.
Ahmad Jamal showed us is mastery on the piano with powerful rhythms and his signature pauses between bars. Jamal recently turned 80 and treated the audience to an updated version of his famous “Poinciana.”
Pianist Chick Corea and his all-star quartet, known as the Freedom Band, shared some classic Thelonius Monk compositions and some original pieces. The quartet included alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Roy Haynes.
Festival producer and pianist George Wein and the Newport All-Stars, pleased the crowd over on the Quad Stage with many classics including Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.” George Wein commented that he and the band like to do these kinds of things for the fun of it.
British pop swing singer and pianist Jamie Cullum closed out the evening on the Fort Main Stage with a lot of energy and drama. The crowd was on their feet swaying and clapping to Cullum’s “Twentysomething”.
On Sunday, the humidity started to rise and the temperature soared close to 90 degrees. The music was still cool and refreshing. Gretchen Parlato’s sultry, whispery lyrics caused everyone to pause and relax. She includes bosa nova in her style and phrasing. Parlato did a wonderful job on Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” and Steve Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It”.
Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra spiced up the afternoon with Afro-Cuban, Afro-Peruvian sounds including solos by special guest trumpeter Jon Faddis. Faddis also performed later with is quartet on the Harbor Stage.
The performance of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ band with special guest Dave Brubeck was the centerpiece of Sunday afternoon. Marsalis introduced Brubeck as “more than a legend.” Brubeck and the band started off with a swinging version of Brubeck’s “Blues for Newport”. Other tunes included Brubeck’s Chobin-based original “Thank You” performed solo. George Wein joined the group on stage to lead the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to Brubeck, who turn’s 90 in December). Brubeck and Marsalis then performed a tender trumpet-piano duet on the standard ballad “These Foolish Things.” The set concluded with Brubeck and Marsalis’ band playing Duke Elllington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.” A special highlight after their set, Wynton and Dave spent time greeting and answering questions from students in the school jazz band from the Kipp Amp Charter School in Brooklyn. The students were invited to the festival by Jazz’d 4 Life, a nonprofit organization founded by Brubeck’s daughter, Catherine. Wynton told the students that he was a good student and did his homework every day because he wanted to be successful.
Pianist Jason Moran, whose trio Bandwagon celebrated their 10th anniversary, explored Thelonious Monk ballads including “Crepuscule With Nellie,” With sidemen, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, Moran performed a wonderful tribute to Thelonius Monk as if it was his own composition.
Herbie Hancock surprised the audience and performed his entire set with electric funk and rock-influenced classic tunes. Herbie had the crowd on their feet groovin’ to his famous compositions including and “Chameleon” and “Watermelon Man”.
Trombonist Conrad Herwig then closed the Harbor Stage with a Latin version of Herbie Hancock compositions called the Latin Side of Herbie Hancock with tunes such as “The Sorcerer”. Sidemen included Mike Rodriguez, trumpet; Craig Handy, tenor saxophone; Bill O’Connell, piano; Ruben Rodriguez, bass; Pedro Martinez, percussion; and Robby Ameen, drums.
Trumpeter Chris Botti closed out the Fort Main Stage with his engaging trumpet sound. He was backed by a sterling ensemble of players including pianist Billy Childs, guitarist Mark Whitfield, keyboardist Geoff Keezer, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Billy Kilson and guest star violinist Lucia Micarelli, who stars in the HBO series, Treme.
The Carefusion Newport Jazz Festival continues to offer a jazz lineup of musicians from a variety of jazz traditions and styles. The festival continues to draw people from all over the world and folks who have attended since its inception.
Accompanying photos are by Ben Johnson. More of his photos from the festival can be seen here.