Saturday, August 6, 2011

Newport is under way [updated]

Time flies when you're having fun. Consider this: George Wein's original Newport Jazz Festival ran for 17 years (1954 to 1971 with one year off after street disturbances in Newport). After a flourishing decade in the Big Apple, it returned to its home base in 1981.

So that makes this year the 30th anniversary of the festival's homecoming. And what an auspicious start, dominated by up-and-coming artists. I'm there again this weekend doing photography for JazzTimes but couldn't resist jotting a few lines at midpoint.

Wynton Marsalis opened the weekend at the International Tennis Hall of Fame (aka Newport Casino, the festival's original home) on Friday evening, followed by crooner-pianist Michael Feinstein, who brought Marsalis back to the stage for two tune during his own set.

Saturday at Ft. Adams State Park was a day for younger talent to shine, though veterans like Eddie Palmieri, Phil Woods and Randy Weston also held the crowd's interest. The biggest crowds, away from the main stage, were drawn by Trombone Shorty and Esparanza Spalding, both of whom are featured in prominent roles both Saturday and Sunday. Shorty (New Orleaans native Troy Andrews) had the audience rolling from the opening moments of his Quad Stage set with his hard-driving take on modern funk, but Spalding (pictured at right) had the larger audience. The attraction may have resulted from those curious to see the woman who won New Artist of the Year at this year's Grammy Awards, besting teenypop darling Justine Beiber and others. The more radical, yet interesting Mostly Other People Do the Killing opened the day at the Quad Stage.

Young met old when octagenarian Phil Woods was featured with 19-year-old alto sax player Grace Kelly's band on the Alex & Ani Stage. Main stage talent included Regina Carter, Hiromi (solo today, with a trio on Sunday), firecracker pianist Michel Camilo, Marsalis and guitarist Al DiMeola. The guitarist was a curious choice for a closing act. It was a duo with pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, rather than a full band, as Rubalcaba wound up filling in for the other members of World Sinfonia, who missed the gig.

It will be interesting to see if Trombone Shorty's exuberant style translates as well to its closing spot on the main stage Sunday as it did Saturday inside the fort.

Eddie Palmieri ... >

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