Thursday, May 28, 2015

A key to success at Newport

The best businesses – and arts organizations – don’t stand still. They find ways to enhance what they do. They making the experience better for their customers and supporters while building on their success. Need a concrete example? Look no further than the many enhancements over the past decade that the owners made at Fenway Park in Boston, starting with the seats atop the Green Monster overlooking left field. 

Here's a jazz example. The Newport Jazz Festival for many years consisted of a succession of performance sets on one stage. That was the case in the 1950s and 1960s at its succession of homes at Newport Casino, Cardines Field, Freebody Park and Festival Field through 1971. With the festivals’ return to Newport in 1981 after a decade-long absence, it’s new more spacious home at Fort Adams State overlooking Newport Harbor provided the ideal space for a venue evolution.

George Wein

Over the past three decades at Fort Adams, the main stage was been supplemented by two side stages, including one that is now located on the former parade ground inside the fortress itself. For the 2015 edition, set for July 31-August 2, founding producer George Wein and his team have added a fourth performance venue.
They are putting an intimate festival stage, with seating for 100 fans, inside the Museum of Yachting, which is located in one of the buildings just inside the festival gate. On Saturday and Sunday, Storyville will feature performances by pianists Frank Kimbrough, Helen Sung, Christian Sands, Aaron Diehl, Giorgi Mikadze and 12-year old jazz prodigy Joey Alexander. The Storyville stage also will feature two seminars each day focusing on renowned trumpeter Miles Davis, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the trumpeter’s first performance at Newport on July 17, 1955.

Storyville is an ideal name for this club-like venue. It was the name of the jazz club that Wein was running in Boston when he got into the jazz production business. Newport socialite Elaine Lorillard walked into Storyville, with a Boston University professor in 1953 to meet Wein because she and her husband Louis were interested in bringing some excitement to Newport. From that meeting, Wein developed the idea to present a jazz festival in Newport. The first was held at historic Newport Casino in July 1954. 

The Casino, now better known as the International Tennis Hall of Fame, has been hosting Newport Jazz Festival opening night concerts since 1988, events that attract both jazz fans and Newport’s social scenemakers. This year’s Friday night concert, on July 31, will feature pianist Jon Batiste and trumpeter Chris Botti with their respective bands.

More festival information can be found here.

The Newport Jazz Festival crowd on a sunny day at Fort Adams.

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