This August will bring my 39th annual trip to Newport, attending all but one of the Jazz Festivals since George Wein brought the storied event back to Newport in 1981, as well as many of its companion Newport Folk Festivals.
Three afternoons and one evening of music by more than 50 bands from August 2-4, cover mainstream, Latin, modern jazz and the avant garde. Only fans of Dixieland and other early jazz styles have nothing to sate their classic jazz appetites on this year's announced program. How times have changed since the very first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 when Eddie Condon's Dixieland band kicked off the event with "Muskrat Ramble."
This year's headliners include Herbie Hancock, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, the Bad Plus, Common, and singers Dianne Reeves and Cecile McLorin Salvant.
With so much to choose from on four stages, here's what I most look forward to hearing:
- Hancock, who as Artist-in-Residence will be featured in different contexts throughout the weekend. On Saturday, for example, he performs in a trio with bassist/festival artistic director Christian McBride and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
- British singer Corinne Bailey Rae, who will perform Friday afternoon at Fort Adams State Park and also be part of Jon Batiste's Friday night concert at historic Newport Casino, the original Newport Jazz Festival setting and longtime home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
- Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz's band with tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and trumpeter Charles Tolliver.
- Singer-pianist Kandace Springs
- The afternoon will also feature a wide range of big bands: The Sun Ra Arkestra, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
- Bassist Ron Carter's trio with guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega.
Dee Dee Bridgewater
- Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Memphis Soulphony.
- New York's Royal Bopsters vocal group featuring special guest Sheila Jordan.
- Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and pianist David Virelles.
- Drummer Ralph Peterson's Messenger Legacy band, carrying on the great sound of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
- Pianist Brandon Goldberg's trio.
- Christian Sands' three-piano tribute to Erroll Garner featuring fellow pianists Helen Sung and Tarataka Unno.
- Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto's Big Band.
- Pianists Aaron Diehl, Eric Lewis (ELEW) and PJ Morton.
- A duo performance by pianist Helen Sung and baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian.
That's one of the joys of Newport. The other joy: there is always something for everyone, whether you sample tidbits at each stage - or camp in one spot for an artist you dig a lot.