fb-pixel

At Newport, collaborations link the past, present, and future of jazz

Kamasi Washington is among the headliners at the Newport Jazz Festival.
Kamasi Washington is among the headliners at the Newport Jazz Festival.(Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Jon Batiste is headlining on Friday night at Newport’s International Tennis Hall of Fame, but the bulk of the Newport Jazz Festival action takes place in daylight Friday through Sunday, with overlapping performances on the four stages at Fort Adams State Park.

Closing the main Fort Stage will be Herbie Hancock on Friday, Kamasi Washington on Saturday, and the hip-hop star Common on Sunday. Thundercat will precede Hancock on the main stage on Friday. A clue to the festival’s continued broad-minded, forward-looking approach to defining jazz is that all four men have worked with Robert Glasper, whose collaborative group R+R=NOW (also featuring Terrace Martin of Hancock’s current group) did similar duty last year.

Advertisement



Not that there won’t be plenty on offer that’s more identifiably linked to the music’s past. Ralph Peterson and the Messenger Legacy will open the main stage Saturday paying tribute to Art Blakey, for example, and on Friday Gary Bartz, who did his own stint as a Jazz Messenger in the 1960s, will celebrate the 50-year anniversary of his now classic, then cutting-edge album “Another Earth” with a band featuring Charles Tolliver and Ravi Coltrane.

Christian Sands will lead fellow pianists Helen Sung and Tadataka Unno in a tribute to Erroll Garner on Sunday. Hancock will return Saturday for a trio set with Christian McBride and Vinnie Colaiuta, and Ron Carter will lead his trio with pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone in a set of chamber jazz.

But there will be a jazz-inflected classical quartet, Marika Hughes’s the New String Quartet, at the Storyville Stage on Sunday, followed by genre-defying saxophonist Matana Roberts, whose newest release in her mammoth historical project “Coin Coin” will arrive in October.

The Bad Plus and their former pianist Ethan Iverson will perform simultaneously for most of their separate sets on Friday, Iverson with the Billy Hart Quartet. Saxophonists Tia Fuller, Marcus Strickland, and Dayna Stephens will each lead combos, and Ravi Coltrane will be paired with the brilliant pianist David Virelles. Heralded newcomers James Francies, Makaya McCraven, and Joel Ross will each lead progressive groups, and Ross will also perform with the all-star collaborative In Common (not to be confused with the hip-hop headliner), with Walter Smith III, Matt Stevens, Harish Raghavan, and Kendrick Scott.

Advertisement



Other top combos expanding jazz boundaries: Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective, Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra, and Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller’s superb new Parlour Game quartet. And the justly celebrated British group Sons of Kemet is sure to get people up and dancing.

Vocal stars include NEA Jazz Masters Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, and Sheila Jordan; 2019 DownBeat Critics Poll jazz artist (and vocalist) of the year Cécile McLorin Salvant; and Buika, currently commanding attention for her work with Carlos Santana on his album “Africa Speaks.” This being Newport, there are also stellar big bands: Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Sun Ra Arkestra, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and 2019 Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy winner Dafnis Prieto Big Band.

The complete lineup and schedules are available at www.newportjazz.org.

NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL

At Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I., Aug. 2-4. www.newportjazz.org/tickets


Bill Beuttler can be reached at bill@billbeuttler.com.