By Scott Hayes
Hartford Jazz Examiner
The Newport Jazz Festival celebrates its 60th anniversary this weekend (August 1-3), and the list of invited guests includes two Brubecks, a Coltrane, a member of music's regal Marsalis family, one Brecker brother and artists paying tribute to Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus.
Newport Jazz is adding a third day at Fort Adams State Park this year as it marks a milestone, and the music is expansive, with 45 sets at two sites. The festival starts early this year with a Friday morning kickoff at 11:30 a.m. at the Fort alongside Narragansett Bay, prior to the traditional opening of the event at the International Tennis Hall of Fame site on Bellevue Avenue. Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, along with vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater with a featured tribute to the music of the late, great Lady Day. Bridgewater played Holiday in the Broadway musical, Lady Day, and now will get the chance to sing the jazz chanteuse's repertoire on a Newport stage.
The Berklee Global Jazz Ambasssadors, featuring David Sanchez, get the honors of igniting the music with an opening set Friday on the Fort Adams main stage. John Batiste & Stay Human conclude the main stage music with a 5 p.m. set, and there's plenty of music in between – 10 sets on three different stages, including up-and-coming vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant – to keep early arrivals entertained. Salvant played recently in Connecticut at an April charity event at West Hartford Town Hall. She also will be performing at the upcoming Litfchfield Jazz Festival at the Goshen Fairgrounds on August. 8.
For those who miss Marsalis on Friday night, there's another chance on Saturday at Fort Adams when he trumpets the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a 3:25 p.m. Main Stage set. Another highlight should be a 4:45 p.m. Harbor Stage set by the Newport Now 60 Band that was assembled to take Newport's banner on the road. The group that includes Anat Cohen on clarinet, Karrin Allyson, Brecker on trumpet, Mark Whitfield, Peter Martin, Larry Grenadier and Clarence Penn, recently completed a tour that began in February. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, brings their New Orleans sashay directly from Bridgeport's Gathering of the Vibes a day earlier and headlines on Saturday with a Main Stage closing set at 5:10 p.m.
The festival should hit its crescendo on Sunday, with stellar music sprinkling across all three stages, beginning with The Brubeck Brothers, Darius and trombonist Chris, taking the Main Stage at 11:30 a.m., followed by the Mingus Big Band at 12:55 p.m. Ravi Coltrane returns to Newport for a performance on the Harbor Stage at 1:25 p.m., followed by the Ron Carter Trio at 2:45. Within the walls of Fort Adams, the Gary Burton New Quartet - with Julian Lage, Scott Colley and Marcus Gilmore – plays on the Quad Stage, following the festival founder George Wein's Newport All-Stars with Cohen, Howard Alden, Brecker, Lew Tabackin, Jay Leonhart and Clarence Penn.
But like the foundation of a great baseball team, the best players should be right up the middle, and that's the way Newport will be finishing with three Main Stage acts – Dr. John & the Nite Trippers, and their hoodoo N'Orleans music, David Sanborn with Connecticut's Joey DeFrancesco on piano and Bobby McFerrin making a return to Newport Jazz with a festival-closing set.
For ticket information and general information about the Newport Jazz Festival, presented by Natixis Global Asset Management, visit www.newportjazzfest.org.