Some call the Newport Jazz Festival the “granddaddy of all jazz festivals.” After a scaled down version in 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Newport Jazz Festival returned to Newport, Rhode Island better than ever this year. Attendees were treated to a mix of jazz, eclectic music, Afro-Cuban beats, electronic sounds, and other mixtures of styles in late July of 2022. This year was also bitter-sweet for the festival. Earlier this year, George Wein, the founder, and producer of the Newport Jazz Festival, passed at the age of 95. Wein was also a musician and music impresario. He was just one person who has been credited for musicians and music lovers having opportunities to partake in a multi-day event in Rhode Island. However, a few key individuals also participated in bringing the idea to life with him.
In 1953, Wein met with Elaine and Louis Lorillard. They had invested money in putting on a summer event in Newport along with the New York Philharmonic the prior year. However, the venture was financially unsuccessful. The Lorillards were part of Newport, Rhode Island’s young elite. The couple had an idea to liven up the summers in Newport with jazz. Wein had opened a hot jazz club in Boston, Massachusetts called Storyville. After meeting with the Lorillards, Wein set out to create a festival that would “liven things up” in Newport. The only problem was that he had no plan to do it.
Along the way, Wein figured out how to make the festival a success. Over 60 years later, the Newport Jazz Festival has become recognized as of this country’s premier music festivals. It draws thousands of music lovers from all over the country and abroad. The small town of Newport, Rhode Island is also an integral dynamic of the festival’s culture. It offers the backdrop of a picturesque harbor, shops, restaurants, and attractions. Attendees who travel to Fort Adams State Park where the Newport Jazz Festival is held can enjoy those additional perks.
The vision of the festival has changed over the decades. Jazz remains at the core of it, although an eclectic mixture of music contributes to the lineup. In previous years, Herbie Hancock; Common; Snarky Puppy; The Roots; Liz Wright; Norah Jones; Robert Glasper; Gregory Porter; Grace Kelly; and many other musicians have performed at the festival. This year, lesser-known artists participated with a mixture of familiar groups. Additionally, Digable Planets; Gary Bartz; Doug Carn; Jack Dejohnette; Nicholas Payton; and Joe Lovano were added to the lineup. Trumpeter Terrance Blanchard performed, singer and songwriter Norah Jones returned. Bassist legend Ron Carter showed up ready to perform at 85 years old.
Although The Soul Rebels and PJ Morton may have been new to attendees, they proved to be unforgettable to some festivalgoers. The Soul Rebels came from Orleans. The musical group is comprised of trumpets, trombones, a tuba, sax, and two percussionists. Their performance was electrifying. The New Orleans brass band sound blended with African, Brazilian, and hip-hop beats, causing the crowd to go wild. Their positive, upbeat message allowed the crowd to come together as one while letting go of the stress and anxiety many have felt over these past few years. PJ Morton, who is also from New Orleans, lit up the stage with his soul and gospel music. His music style has a Marvin Gay vibe. Morton’s band was so dynamic and engaging that nearly everyone who listened to them could not help feeling inspired to dance.
A moving tribute to Wein, who was also a musician, added to the festival’s memorable happenings. Wein was loved by many artists. Some of them performed at this year’s event. The special tribute included a rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” It was performed by legendary trumpeter Jon Faddis and Hiromi. Trombone Shorty, who also plays the trumpet, came to the stage with a roaring applause. He played “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” and ended his tribute on the trombone. The musician’s performance closed with a song called “St James Infirmary.”
The Newport Jazz Festival is regarded as legendary for good reason. To learn more about next year’s great musical experience, visit www.newportjazz.org.