Saturday, August 20, 2016

Looking Back: Newport Jazz Festival

Robert Glasper - Robert Glasper Experiment

Today, we're looking back to my brief visit to the Newport Jazz Festival a couple of weeks ago.

Sadly, I only got to attend one day of the festival this year. But hey, one is better than none!

For six decades, the Newport Jazz Festival has been a showcase of jazz music’s brightest stars. It’s also been a nexus point where the full extent of the music’s continuum; the inventions, dimensions, styles, syncopations, and sonorities, have crossed stylistic musical barriers. Stefon Harris, Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington exemplify the very essence of that continuum. In the words of Duke Ellington, they are “Beyond Category.”

I dig a lot of different music but the majority of my collection is rock 'n' roll. The beauty of the Newport Jazz Festival is you get turned on to the various different styles of jazz. You get a mix of legends and future legends. And, some artists don't even necessarily fit into a nice tidy little jazz box. This is perfect for those of us that just dip our toes in jazz, having a few go-to faves that are listened to. Perfect for those of us with childhood memories of mom's impressive collection wafting through the house as it snuck into my sub-conscience leaving its mark. So, when folks like the Robert Glasper Experiment (whom I've seen a few times) and Kamasi Washington (my first time seeing him) come along, you get curious about the buzz and want to see what it's all about. Yes, I go to shows of artists I'm curious about, but it's generally not anything that's considered jazz. The Newport Jazz Festival gives one the opportunity to explore, discover and sate ones jazz curiosity and it does so with a view. 

The Robert Glasper Experiment…the first time I saw them, I called them weird, trippy, weird and fun. This time out it didn't seem as weird or trippy but it was still fun.

Robert Glasper - Robert Glasper Experiment
Casey Benjamin - Robert Glasper Experiment

Kamasi Washington has been getting a lot of buzz for his epic three hour debut album called, well, what else, The Epic. I confess, I wasn't all that into the album even though the majority of my music loving friends rave about it.  But, live, I found he and his band rather enjoyable. 

Kamasi Washington
Ryan Porter - Kamasi Washington's Band
Kamasi Washington
The Newport Jazz Festival is one of those festivals you have to go to at least once in your life if you're a music fan. I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to all those good folks, seen and unseen, that make it happen; the Newport Festivals Foundation, those that sponsor and support this iconic festival...hats off to you. 

In addition to the Festival’s presenting sponsor, Natixis Global Asset Management, support comes from Alex and Ani, North Coast Brewing Co., Toyota, D'Angelico, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Rhode Island Foundation, Ticketmaster and travel partner, WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM. The Preferred Hotels of the Festival are Hotel Viking, Newport Marriott, Hyatt Regency Newport and The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina. Media supporters are DownBeat, JazzTimes, WRIU and WICN.

Mark your calendars for next year's fest. The Newport Jazz Festival is scheduled for August 4-6, 2017. See you there?