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Rainy days fail to deny Newport Jazz Festival its special moments at Number 60

By Scott Hayes

Hartford Jazz Examiner

NEWPORT, R.I. -- The showcase moments during Newport Jazz Festival's 60th anniversary were sure to come based on the lineup put together by its founder, 88-year-old George Wein and his supporting group of organizers. Where and when, and with whom was the question.

Despite the threat of bad weather and rainy conditions throughout much of the three-day festival, special moments surfaced during the milestone event, although attendance was lower than usual. An additional day at Fort Adams on Friday prior to the traditional Friday night opening concert at the plush International Hall of Fame/Casino complex on Bellevue Ave attracted only 2,500. Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, along with opening act Dee Dee Bridgewater, drew 3,000. Of course, in celebrating 60 years of Newport, the former Casino site was the place to be seen to kick off the weekend-long music party. Despite day-long rain, 6,000 attended the Saturday Fort Adams performances (although 8,000 tickets were sold). Sunday, which was weighted with some heavyweight performers and intended to conclude Newport 60 with a bang, pulled in 6,800 festival faithful, who experienced some periods of rain.

Sunday opened with an announcement from festival organizers about 30-minutes before the start of music, that one of its Fort Stage headliners -- Dr. John and his band, the Nite Trippers, was not going to be able to participate after being hospitalized due to illness over the weekend. Performers. Four bands would be stretching their sets from an hour to 75-minutes to cover the gap and provide concert-goers with a full five hours of music, but music wouldn't start until noon, a 30-minute delay.

What transpired was worth the wait. The Brubeck Brothers, Chris on bass and trombone and Dan on drums, received a warm welcome from the large crowd, including many who remember numerous occasions when their dad, Dave was the headliner at the Newport Jazz Festival. According to Wein, he doesn't remember any musician performing as many times as the late Brubeck -- double-digit times over a 58-year span (roughly once every four years). The performance was emotional for Chris as he spoke to the crowd about the music -- all Brubeck compositions and their relevance to family, the festival, and music history.

The band, consisting of the two Brubecks, Mike DiMicco and guitar and Chuck Lamb covering the Great One's piano parts, opened with a number off a recording made with Dave Brubeck, Lifetimes, when the pianist was in his 70's. "Dance of the Shadow," a rhythmical extended samba featuring DiMicco's guitar stylings, allowed the quartet to limber up and stretch out for what was to ensue. A series of rearranged Brubeck songs followed, and the Brubeck spirit was in the air for "Kathy's Waltz," a song Dave wrote for Chris and Dan's sister, Katherine, who currently owns her own business in Wallingford, Conn. fostering music in education. "Blues for Newport" followed, a song Dave Brubeck wrote while at the Newport Jazz Festival and recorded live on stage while saxophonist Gerry Mulligan was in his group to become a part of festival history. Another touching moment followed when the Brubeck sons performed a song their dad wrote for his wife -- "In Your Own Sweet Way," featuring Lamb's lush piano playing. "Jazzanians," another composition off Lifestyles, featuring Dan Brubeck's rolling drum work was followed by Mr. Brubeck's song entitled "Marian McPartland" a tribute to the queen of jazz piano who took her work traveling across the country.

The group treated the crowd to two songs off Brubeck's 1955 breakout recording, Take Five, that popularized jazz with main stream America. A Newport Jazz Festival favorite, for obvious reasons, the Brubeck brothers provided their version of "Take Five," a jam session in a odd time signature, followed by the encore, rollicking "Blue Rondo a la Turk."

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