Concerts

Newport Jazz Festival returns with full programming, celebrates two legends

The festival takes place from July 29 to 31.

Christian McBride Situation at the 2021 Newport Jazz Festival.
Christian McBride Situation at the 2021 Newport Jazz Festival. Boston Concert Photography

Around 46 acts have been announced for this year’s Newport Jazz Festival at Fort Adams State Park, from July 29 to 31, and more artist announcements are to come, the festival’s artistic director Christian McBride told Boston.com.

“We are not done announcing yet. We have some really nice surprises, but I dare not say anything more just yet,” said McBride, a Philadelphia native and a renowned jazz bassist.

It’s a far cry from last year when the festival, which was founded in 1954 by the late George Wein, operated at half capacity. The slimmed-down 2021 event followed an online-only version in 2020, but Newport Jazz Festival 2022 is back in full flight.

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“Fingers crossed,” noted McBride, adding a note of caution as COVID-19 restrictions lift, but infections rise once again.

This year’s cast boasts a strong presence of women with Norah Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Angelique Kidjo’s Remain In Light, Jazzmeia Horn, and Nubya Garcia among the artists performing.

“George Wein always did a really good job with having strong dynamic female artists perform,” McBride said. “How can you have a major jazz festival without these women? They transcend any sort of category, be it race or gender. They are just so powerful.”

The festival pitches young guns like Great Britain’s Sons of Kemet and Massachusetts’s “beat scientist” drummer Makaya McCraven in with stalwarts like McBride, who will lead an ensemble cast in his annual Jawn Jam; 84-year-old double bass legend Ron Carter; and contemporary trumpet player and Jazz Messengers alum Terrence Blanchard.

“It’s important to have variety and balance,” McBride noted. “The festival has a tradition of mixing together all styles of jazz, from straight-ahead to fusion to funk to what we call ‘jazz-adjacent.’ We want those young, up-and-coming acts, but we also want the stalwarts.”

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Two jazz legends will be celebrated at this year’s festival: Joe Lovano’s Trio Tapestry featuring Marilyn Crispell and Carmen Castaldi unite with The Mingus Big Band to celebrate the birth centennial of jazz legend Charlie Mingus.

“We would be extremely remiss if we didn’t celebrate the Mingus centennial,” McBride said. “We stand on the shoulders of those guys.”

On the festival’s final night, an all-star band (still under wraps) will pay tribute to Newport Jazz and Newport Folk Festival founder George Wein, who passed away last September.

“This will be the crown jewel of the festival,” McBride said. “George was very special. He wasn’t about establishing his name. He just wanted to create a platform for the musicians he loved.”

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