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Horns of plenty: A shortlist of must-see acts at Newport Jazz

Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Rudresh Mahanthappa.

This year’s Newport Jazz Festival has big names: Pat Metheny, Dianne Reeves, Bill Frisell. It’s focused, with only one non-jazz act, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. But what the lineup most resembles is a smorgasbord of what’s new and now on the New York scene. It’s a strong time for jazz, and here is ample illustration.

At 86, Newport founder George Wein still trawls the clubs for new artists. “I’m very excited about the future,” he says. “In the past, when you said ‘Max’ or ‘Miles,’ you knew exactly who it was. I want some of these young artists to have the same: When you hear their first name, you know who it is.”

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Older, younger, and in-between, a few standouts from an all-around strong schedule:

Jack DeJohnette (Sat., 12:40 p.m., Quad Stage; Jack DeJohnette All-Stars, Sat., 4:50, Quad Stage). The great drummer marks his 70th birthday surrounded by young talent in his working band and a second, “all-star” unit, with a special duet with pianist Jason Moran.

Pat Metheny Unity Band (Sat., 5:05 p.m., Fort Stage). The guitarist hadn’t featured saxophone in his bands for 30 years. Here comes Chris Potter on tenor, with Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Ben Williams on bass, forming a fine Metheny unit, searching and melodic.

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Jason Moran.

Patrick McBride

Jason Moran.

Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Samdhi (Sun., 12:40 p.m., Harbor Stage). The alto saxophonist keeps edging closer to his Indian roots, sometimes in oblique ways. He lets loose with Samdhi, updating East-West encounters of the 1970s with sophistication and savvy.

Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke with Becca Stevens (Sun., 2 p.m., Harbor Stage). Singer Parlato, with a style that’s soft yet ardent and steely, has a long musical complicity with guitarist Lionel Loueke. Rising vocalist Stevens joins in for an unusual trio.

Jason Moran & the Bandwagon (Sun., 3:20 p.m., Harbor Stage). At 37, Moran is one of today’s great innovating artists. His vision extends to dance, multimedia, documentaries. But jazz piano is his core medium, and the Bandwagon his brilliant working band.

Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra (Sun., 3:20 p.m., Fort Stage). The large ensemble that Maria Schneider has conducted for going on two decades makes music unlike any in jazz, but influenced by Schneider’s mentor Gil Evans: wide open, cinematic, emotionally daring.

Siddhartha Mitter can be reached at siddharthamitter@gmail.com.
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