The Grand Daddy of all music festivals, Newport Jazz, returns to Fort Adams State Park this summer with a stellar lineup over the weekend of August 2-4. The story begins in 1954, when Producer George Wein was hired by Newport socialites Elaine and Louis Lorillard to put on a summer festival in what was then a sleepy summer retreat for the rich and famous. Today, it’s a model for the music industry and a destination for jazz fans worldwide.
Whether you’re an aficionado or entrant into the world of jazz, the Festival is a great way to experience an original American art form at an event steeped in music lore. Traditional jazz artists are well represented, but the Festival is also known to feature exciting young talent, including many who cross over into other musical genres. In fact, the 2019 lineup might leave you wondering, “This is jazz?” (The answer: absolutely!)
Here’s what to expect if you plan on attending:
Headliner Herbie Hancock is a genre superstar who earned his chops playing with Miles Davis. The veteran keyboardist has been in the business for over 50 years fronting his own bands, both acoustic and electric. Other big names to look for include the Ron Carter Trio, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and saxophone upstart Kamasi Washington, who recently recorded with Kendrick Lamar and Chaka Khan.
A model of diversity and inclusion, women musicians comprise nearly half of all Festival performers. Highlights include event veteran Dianne Reeves and Grammy winner Corinne Bailey Rae. Don’t forget to check out Women of the World, an eclectic a Capella ensemble with members from Japan, Italy, India, Canada, and Haiti.
The zenith of the 2019 Festival may very well be Tank and the Bangas, a breakout act at last year’s Folk Festival. The New Orleans band is pure energy on stage, blending jazz, folk, hip-hop, spoken word, and more. Other artists who don’t fall into the traditional jazz classification include Common, who emerged out of hip-hop but crosses all boundaries, and Grammy winner Thundercat, who recently recorded with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.
For a more upscale experience, head to the evening concert at the Tennis Hall of Fame on Friday August 2, led this year by Jon Batiste, late show bandleader and Festival favorite. The show is billed as “Jon Batiste and Friends,” so expect some surprises.
Those in-the-know head to the Friday show. The lineup is especially strong and the crowds lighter. All that changes over the weekend. To really be part of the scene, our advice is to leave early and plan accordingly. Chill and enjoy the good vibes. Finally, although it’s tempting to relax in the summer sun at the Fort Stage, be sure to walk around the grounds and catch acts at all four stages.