By Mike McKenney, Rock At Night New England
Venue: Newport Jazz Festival at Fort Adams-Newport, Rhode Island-August 2-4, 2019
They came by car, boat, plane, water taxi and even a floating pink flamingo. The came from all over, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, New York was well represented, and a couple that flew in from California just to experience a single day of the 65th Newport Jazz Festival. For three glorious sun filled days, the music was the thing, as music lovers of all genres devoured the diverse styles of artists such as Corinne Bailey Rae, Chicago’s Sun Ra Arkestra (led by the 95 yr old saxophone player, Marshall Allen), Tank & The Bangas, Women Of The World, and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
The festival employed four stages, strategically placed around the Fort, and the performances were scheduled so the music didn’t interfere from one stage to another.
Set against the historic massive stone fortress of Fort Adams, the music waffled out to the appreciative hordes of boaters anchored in the scenic harbor of Narragansett Bay.
With twenty performances spread out to the four stages every day, the friendly staff guided the crowds with precise coordination, so all the patrons had to concern themselves with was whether to get a lobster roll, or clam chowder from the long line of gourmet food trucks, before the next act.
The Presenting Sponsor, Natixis Investment Managers, had every reason to be proud of this world class operation. Under the Artistic Director (and uber talented bassist) Christian McBride, and Executive Producer, Newport Festivals Foundation, Jay Sweet, the level and diversity of talent at the Newport Jazz Festival is unmatched anywhere.
In addition to providing great jazz, the Natixis Investment Managers continued their tradition of awarding two scholarships to deserving high school student who embodied the spirit and energy of jazz and of Newport Jazz founder George Wein.
George Wein began producing the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1959. The 94 year old Founder of Newport Jazz Festival was honored by the Boston Red Sox, with a jersey numbered for the year he was born and a score board numbered 65 (for the 65th anniversary of the 1954 festival) from the Green Monster.
This year also honored the return of Artist-In-Residence, Grammy and Oscar winning keyboardist and composer, the legendary Herbie Hancock. Herbie packs a venue no matter what size the stage–as he did on Friday and again, on Saturday when he performed with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Vinny Colaiuta.
Friday night featured a special concert at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino, featuring pianist Jon Batiste and Friends. The Bandleader and Musical Director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Batiste has performed in over 40 countries and collaborated with artist Stevie Wonder, Prince, Mavis Staples, and Willie Nelson. Batiste also just released “Anatomy of Angels,” earlier in the day, an album he recorded live over several nights at the Village Vanguard this past fall. Joining him at Newport was the band from that album and four guests: Ethan Iverson, ELEW (a.k.a. Eric Lewis), PJ Morton, and Corrine Bailey Rae, each of whom performed at Fort Adams this weekend as well.
All in all, 60 jazz acts took to the stages over the course of the three day festival. Other notable standouts included Ravi Coltrane, Makaya McCraven, Mwenso & The Shakes, and the URI Big Band. Even as the sun began to set over the bay on Sunday evening, the music still shone through as “Common” wrapped up their set, closing the 65th Newport Jazz Festival.