Friday, July 8, 2016

Newport #Jazz Festival 2016: So many stages, so little time

Whether you prefer a musical smorgasbord – a bit of this, a smidgen of that, or prefer to camp out for a full set of a favorite artist – the 2016 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival has something for everyone. With more than 50 different groups scheduled to appear July 29-31, there can be a lot of ground to cover or filter through. Every jazz-related genre is covered, no matter your style preferences.

There are three outdoor stages at Fort Adams State Park and on Saturday and Sunday, there’s an intimate Storyville stage tucked inside a former yachting museum. This principally is a solo piano and small group showcase location that only holds about 100 people, so waiting lines are common.

Tierney Sutton
This year's traditional Friday night event downtown at the Newport Tennis Hall of Fame, the historic Newport Casino site that hosted George Wein’s first Newport festival back in 1954, features singer Gregory Porter’s band and pianist Chick Corea’s trio with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. Both groups are also on the Saturday menu at Fort Adams.

Edmar Castaneda
I’ll be at NJF this month for the 35th time in 36 years. I started covering the festival when Wein returned to Newport in 1981 after a 10-year absence. As a photographer on assignment, there are often mad dashes between stages. I’m used to it now, but return to savor more of an interesting set as time permits.

Here are some of the groups I most want to hear:

  • Corea’s spartan, high-energy trio. Chick turned 75 last month but has never slowed down. McBride and Blade add interesting personalities to the musical chemistry. Both have much to say as leaders or sidemen. (McBride also is succeeding Wein as the festival’s artistic director.)
  • Three Caribbean jazz-related bands: trumpeter Etienne Charles and Creole Soul (Friday), Monty Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express (Saturday) and Cuban-born saxophonist Yosvany Terry’s quintet (Sunday).
  • Singer Tierney Sutton’s “After Blue” Joni Mitchell Project with guitarist Serge Merlaud and cellist Mark Summer (a Turtle Island String Quartet co-founder who left that band last fall to pursue a solo career). Sutton has been a favorite vocal performer for decades, yet this is her Newport debut. Her Friday performance is long overdue. She's also guesting with The Hot Sardines on Saturday.
  • Los Angeles tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington. His triple-CD The Epic ranked as one of 2015’s top albums in virtually all critics polls. He and his band perform at Fort Adams on Friday and on Sunday.
  • Saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s group. (Friday). The hard-edged, versatile tenor player is always a treat to hear. This band is of particular interest, because it backed David Bowie on his epitaph recording project, Blackstar.
  • Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda’s World Ensemble. Due to his blend of musicality and enthusiasm, there may be no more exhilarating performer to witness in jazz (Saturday).
  • Saxophonist Chris Potter’s supergroup with bassist Dave Holland, guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Eric Harland (Sunday).
  • Pianists Sullivan Fortner, Henry Butler, Rossano Sportiello and Toshiko Akiyoshi.
Other mainstream treats will include pianist Kenny Barron’s trio and the venerable Heath Brothers (Friday) with saxophonist Jimmy Heath also guesting with the Rhode Island Music Educators Association student big band on Saturday morning). There’s also the prodigious pianist Joey Alexander, clarinetist Anat Cohen’s tentet and the John Scofield/Joe Lovano Sextet.

Besides Porter and Sutton, jazz vocals fans have the music of Jose James, Norah Jones, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright to savor. 

Donny McCaslin
Chick Corea
Chris Potter
Check out the festival website to see the full roster of 2016 performers because there’s an abundance of riches.

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