Newport Jazz Festival: A Homecoming 

Newport Jazz Festival

By Mike McKenney, Rock At Night New England

Newport Jazz Festival–Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island–July 30th-August 1st, 2021

Newport Harbor

A picture perfect weekend in Newport was exactly what the Jazz gods ordered for the return of the oldest Jazz festival.  Starting in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival continued every year until COVID forced last year’s cancellation.

Restarting such an historic event is a massive undertaking and brought about a few changes for safety sake. Reduced ticket availability kept the crowd size manageable while Performers, staff, vendors, and media all wore masks when in close quarters, and many masks could be seen in the audiences as well.

Jazz Gallery All-Stars

The most notable difference was the use of 2 main stages instead of the usual 4, which worked well for the flow of the crowds. With all the safety measures in place, the fans poured in were ready for three days of great Jazz.

This year’s line-up produced some of the highest quality Jazz Newport has ever heard. Perhaps as a byproduct of being locked down, it was great to see so many performers jamming together again. The Jazz Gallery All-Stars, David Oswald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, and The Jam Jawn featuring Christian McBride were just a few examples of amazing musicians bringing out the best in each other and the jazz aficionados in the audience could be seen with their mouths agape, dazed by the brilliance before them.

Such diversity of style, The Vibe Summit, complete with three vibraphone players, Brandee Younger, making her Newport debut played a phenomenal harp, and at the other end of the spectrum, the pinnacle of jazz, Mavis Staples, are the hallmark of The Newport Jazz Festival.


Mike McKenney