For the first time in its 62-year history, the world-renowned Newport Jazz Festival® will have a musician other than pianist/producer George Wein as its artistic director. Multiple Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride has been named artistic director to work alongside, and eventually succeed, Wein as the festival’s music curator, it was announced today by Wein, chairman of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc.™ and producer of the Newport Jazz Festival since its inception in 1954, and Jay Sweet, the Foundation’s executive producer.
Rounding out the production dream team is Danny Melnick, 25-year veteran of Wein’s organization, who will move up to producer from associate producer.
“I am very pleased that Christian McBride is available to join forces with the Festival and Foundation,” said George Wein, “I’m looking forward to working with him as the beacon of the future of Newport Jazz Festivals and continuing to collaborate with Danny to produce some of the world’s finest music events. When I first met and heard a teenage Christian McBride in 1989, I knew that he was someone special. Little did I know that nearly 30 years later, he would become the special someone to continue my legacy. The Foundation’s Board and I feel that the festival is in good hands and these two music mavericks are more than capable to sustain the festival for decades to come.”
McBride will begin festival strategic planning with Wein and Melnick immediately, and will take the reins for the 2017 Newport Jazz Festival. He has been a regular at Newport since his days as a young jazz lion and will again take the stage this year with Chick Corea Trilogy on Friday and Saturday.
“I am deeply humbled by my appointment as artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival – the most storied and legendary jazz festival in history. To be able to work with a legend like George Wein, not only as a musician, but now as an understudy, is a task I will cherish and approach with openness and excitement. I’m also looking forward to working with consummate producers Danny Melnick and Jay Sweet as well as with the entire festival team,” said McBride.
Three decades after he arrived in New York in 1989 as a Juilliard classical music student, Philadelphia-born Christian McBride reigns supreme as the most accomplished, influential and ubiquitous bassist of his generation. Soon after he enrolled in Juilliard, McBride hit the road as a member of Bobby Watson’s Horizon and the rest is jazz history. He has performed on more than 300 recordings as a sideman with everybody from Pat Metheny, Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis, and Sting to The Roots, Bruce Hornsby and Paul McCartney. He’s also recorded 12 critically-acclaimed CDs as a leader with his quintet, Inside Straight, his big band and his trio. Live at the Village Vanguard earned him a 2015 Grammy Award (his fifth) for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for his rendition of the jazz standard, “Cherokee.”
“We’re thrilled that Christian McBride has joined the Newport Festivals Foundation family,” said Jay Sweet, the Foundation’s Executive Producer. “He is not only a champion of jazz, but also a champion for jazz. In addition to the awards, performances at the White House, world-wide concert tours and radio shows, Christian’s dedication to music education, his knowledge of our festivals’ history and his passion to help the music live on are why I’m excited to have him as part of our team.”
In addition to his accomplishments as a sideman and bandleader, McBride is also an influential educator and media host. He hosts and produces “The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian,” on SiriusXM satellite radio and National Public Radio’s weekly show, “Jazz Night in America.” In 1997, McBride spoke on former President Bill Clinton’s town hall meeting “Racism in the Performing Arts.” He served as artistic director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions (2000), co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (2005), and the second creative chair for Jazz of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (2005). He also serves as artistic advisor for Jazz Programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), and he works with Jazz House Kids, a nationally recognized community arts organization founded by his wife, vocalist Melissa Walker, dedicated to educating children through jazz.
“The opportunity to carry on the legacy of the Newport Jazz Festival is not only a privilege but also an important responsibility,” said Danny Melnick. “The influence of this great festival on American life, and throughout the world, is profound, and I am honored to uphold its deep tradition and meet the standards that George Wein has set. I also look forward to collaborating with Christian McBride. There’s a reason why he’s among the most respected figures in all of modern music – his taste is impeccable. Most of all, we share one goal: to keep the festival flourishing for many years to come.”
The 2016 Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management takes place July 29-31 at historic Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino. Artists include Chick Corea Trilogy with Christian McBride and Brian Blade; Norah Jones; Gregory Porter; Angélique Kidjo; Kamasi Washington; John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet; Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society; Charles Lloyd New Quartet; Robert Glasper Experiment; Nels Cline; Lizz Wright; Tierney Sutton; Django Festival All Stars; Kenny Barron Trio; Donny McCaslin; Yosvany Terry Quintet; Toshiko Akiyoshi; Steve Coleman and Five Elements; Galactic; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah; José James; Kneebody; The Hot Sardines; Anat Cohen and many others. For more information and tickets, visit www.newportjazzfest.org.
Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc.™ was founded by George Wein in 2010 to build and continue the legacies of the famed Newport Jazz Festival® and Newport Folk Festival®. Under the auspices of the Foundation, the Festivals present performers who respect and honor jazz and folk music traditions, and at the same time reflect the changes in today’s musical trends. In addition, the Foundation presents programs to educate young people about jazz and folk music as presented at the annual festivals. For more information, please visit www.newportfestivalsfoundation.org.