The Newport Jazz Festival was held for the first time in 1954 at Newport Casino. It was conceived and established by the socialite Elaine Lorillard along with her husband Louis Lorillard. The couple further hired George Wein for the purpose of event management, to help bring jazz artists to perform at the festival. The debut event boasted a large number of acts by prominent singers and musicians of the time. Its subsequent success led the production to find and purchase a larger venue in order to accommodate and facilitate the increasing number of fans for the next show. With new young artists joining in each year, Newport Jazz Fest is a tradition that has flourished by leaps and bounds, so much so that people plan their trips and holidays around the festival time.
In 1969, the festival experimented to add soul and rock genres into its lineup of musical performances. Hence the first of the three day festivity included rock acts by groups like Blood, Ten Years After, Jeff Beck, Sweat & Tears and Jethro Tull. The second day and third day followed a combination of acts by names like Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Led Zeppelin, Sly & the Family Stone and Jethro Tull. The inclusion of a variety of genres besides jazz was met with a positive response which further encouraged the production to invite varied musicians for its upcoming ventures.
The 1971 festival saw the performance of the popular Southern rock band, The Allman Brothers Band. However, the following year George Wein shifted the festival to New York. The event’s debut in the city was marked by a total of thirty concerts with sixty two artists. The most prominent amongst these were Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Roberta Flack and Ray Charles. Though the music festival was a success in the new city, it missed the classic carefree holiday mood of Newport which had somewhat subsided in the fast and busy life of New York. After many years of entertaining the New Yorkers, George eventually decided to bring the festival back to the beautiful coastal city, this time at a prime beachside venue called the Fort Adams State Park. The festival was welcomed back with open arms becoming an instant hit among the all age groups.
In 2007, festival producer George Wein sold off his company to a merger with Shoreline Media. This merger came to be known as Festival Network LLC which owned and operated the activity thereby managing the brand of ‘Newport Jazz Fest’. However, George returned to his role of managing the festival in 2009.
During its near six decade history, the festival has hosted the performances of many legendary artists from all over the world. The most popular of its showcased acts include Miles Davis’s solo in 1955 and ‘Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue’ performance by Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1956. Each year the event unfolds in a surprising way with a variety of veteran as well as upcoming artists. It is the place where everyone unites to celebrate the glorious tradition of jazz. Last year’s festivity presented a plethora of young exuberant performers like Miguel Zenon, Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, Hohn DeJohnette and many more.
Though numerous music/jazz festivals have emerged in recent times in various parts of the world, yet Newport Jazz Festival remains true to its inherent entertainment values of promoting and bringing the best of jazz to one platform together each year. So get your Newport Jazz Fest tickets and get ready for the perfect beachside summer extravaganza.
Newport Jazz Festival, held in New Port’s Fort Adams State Park every summer, is a musical festival that was first established in 1954 by Elaine and Louis Lorillard. Since its inception, it has featured lineups that not only showcase the city’s rich jazz history but have also predicted it, while Newport city in turn has lent the event an unparalleled home embedded in culture and history. As a result, the festival’s fans become more of a community as opposed to mere audience, so that its turns out to be more than just a string of concerts, as Chairman of Newport Festival Foundation and festival producer George Wein puts it.
The festival is special not only because of its music but also for uniting the people and place in the music, and creating a real happening experience that can be remembered for long even after the music stops. In addition, since this is an event that has been taking place in August every year for more than half a century now, it has become part of the city’s tradition, binding together the Jazz Festival and the city of Newport. Some of the most notable historic jazz performances have been held here including the 1955 Miles Davis solo on Round Midnight as well as the Duke Ellington’s lengthy orchestra performance of Crescendo and Diminuendo in Blue featuring Polo Gonsalves’ 27-chorus saxophone solo. Newport Jazz Festival tickets are thus more than just a celebration of contemporary jazz music.
In 1954, the very first Newport Jazz Festival was arranged by socialite Elaine Lorillard and her husband, who financed it for several years to come. The couple brought in George Wein, a jazz impresario, to organize the festival and assist them in bringing jazz to Newport’s resort town. Many of these early festivals were broadcasted on Voice of America’s radio while several concerts were recorded and later issued by different record labels. The festival was moved to NYC in 1972, where it turned into a two-site festival by 1981, following which it came back to Newport while also continuing in New York. The event came to be called the JVC Jazz Festival between 1984 and 2008, which in 2009 was ceased being supported by JVC due to 2009’s economic downturn, following which CareFusion replaced it. Since 2012, it has been sponsored by global asset management, Natixis.
Newport Jazz Festival has been featuring the most high-profile artists since its early days, which are now available in live albums. In 1960, headlining acts included Nina Simone and Muddy Waters whose performances were later released in the albums Nina Simone at Newport and At Newport 1960, respectively. The following year brought in Judy Garland, who had only recently played two successful concerts in NYC’s Carnegie Hall, so that her opening night at the festival was included in the Grammy Award-winning release Judy at Carnegie Hall. During this time, Garland was taking a promotional tour for her album, frequently playing sold out shows. In 1962, the festival was documented on video by Storyville, featuring performances by Duke Ellington, Roland Kirk, the famous Oscar Peterson Trio, Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, and Count Basie Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing.
In 1965’s festival included appearances by Archie Shepp and John Coltrane whose performances were released on album labeled New Thing at Newport. In addition, Herbie Mann’s set with Chick Corea from the same year, was also issued in an album called Standing Ovation at Newport, while the latter also released a second album in 1967 that comprised mostly of his performance at the festival.
In 1967, the festival featured Albert Ayler whose concert too was released in 2004’s box set titled Holy Ghost. Alongside a 1973 performance by Ella Fitzgerald at Carnegie Hall was included in the release Newport Jazz Festival: At Carnegie Hall Live. At the upcoming festival, jazz acts like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter will take the three stages alongside newly emerging artists Miguel Zenon, Gregory Porter and Esperanza Spalding. This a grand and historic jazz event not to be missed, so make sure to grab your Newport Jazz Festival tickets in time.