The Newport Jazz Festival has showcased some of the finest bandleaders in jazz from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck, to Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams and Miles Davis. Make your way to The-City-By-The-Sea where the 2018 edition of the festival will present a cache of leaders who move the music forward while paying homage to its roots.
The 82-year-old, Memphis-born, Harold Mabern brings five decades of unadulterated, straight-ahead swing to the stage on Saturday, August 4, powered by his propulsive and personable pianism that, according to formerVillage Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins, “marries McCoy Tyner’s clustering modality with rippling asides that stem from [Art] Tatum.” Inspired by the legendary Phineas Newborn, Mabern grew up gigging with future greats like trumpeter Booker Little and saxophonist George Coleman. As a sideman, he’s worked with everybody from Miles Davis, Lee Morgan and Wes Montgomery, to Stanley Turrentine, George Benson and Betty Carter. Since 1968, he’s recorded over 20 albums as a leader, including his last three on the Smoke Label. Among them was his well-received 2014 CD, Afro Blue, which featured vocalists Gregory Porter, Norah Jones, Kurt Elling and Jane Monheit. Mabern’s work as an educator is as equally impressive as his improvisations, as evidenced by his sojourns at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and William Paterson University, where he mentored a young, Coleman-influenced, tenor saxophonist, Eric Alexander – an invigorating improviser with a firm grasp of the tradition. This swinging and satisfying master/apprentice relationship has been mutually beneficial, especially with Mabern as a sideman on Alexander’s 2016 and 2017 CDs, The Second Impression and The Black Cat. There is no doubt this dynamic duo will make Beale Street talk when they hit the Newport stage in swinging sympatico on Saturday, August 4.
The 57-year-old, Wilmington, Delaware-born, pianist, composer and bandleader Matthew Shipp’s supreme reign as one of the most influential musicians of the avant-garde dimension of the music, is in large part due tothe mentorship of Robert “Boysie” Lowery, who counted the legendary Clifford Brown as one of his students, and Philadelphia guitarist Dennis Sandole, who taught John Coltrane. With that firm foundation, along with his mystic brew of Bud Powell’s boplicity, McCoy Tyner’s power and Sun Ra’s iconoclastic ideas, Shipp moved to New York in the 80s after studying at The New England Conservatory of Music, and – in the ears of many critics – picked up where Cecil Taylor left off. Shipp’s staggering, 60-plus recordings as a leader run the gamut of configurations – but he primarily worked and recorded with trios and quartets, especially with drummers Guillermo E. Brown, Gerald Cleaver, and Whit Dickey, and bassist William Parker, along with saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and David S. Ware, and vibraphonist Khan Jamal. Joining Shipp in Newport on Friday, August 3, are bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor Baker, who complete the trio on hislatest critically-acclaimed CD, Piano Song.
The esteemed New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley has been in his percussive prime ever since he burst on the scene in the mid 1980s. He’s held down the drum chair in Ahmad Jamal’s groups for three decades, worked and recorded with Wynton Marsalis for that same period, and was a founding member of Jazz at Lincoln Center. A member of a prominent family of musicians, Riley has performed on dozens of recordings as a sideman with everybody from Dr. John, Steve Turre and George Benson to Marcus Roberts, Cassandra Wilson and Monty Alexander. Riley is a literal, one-man conjuration of Congo Square, who downloads all of the Afro-Diasporic rhythms with all of their dancing diversity. Since 2006, Riley has released three CDs as a leader: Watch What You’re Doing, Cream of the Crescent andNew Direction. His forthcoming release is entitled Perpetual Optimism, and when he comes to Newport on Sunday, August 5, with pianist ELEW (Eric Lewis), saxophonist Marcus Strickland, bassist Russell Hall and Cuban percussionist Alexey Marti, Riley’s Big Easy Beats will definitely bring smiles to the New England shores.
It’s one thing to master an instrument. It’s another thing to master a family of instruments. That’s what James Carterhas been doing since the 80s. Whether he’s playing the tenor, alto, soprano or baritone saxophone, along with bass clarinet and flute, the 49-year-old, Detroit native (and cousin of violinist Regina Carter) has developed a signature, identifiable sound across the saxophone/woodwind spectrum, in a myriad of configurations and contexts. Carter has worked and recorded with a plethora of stars including Lester Bowie, Kathleen Battle, Herbie Hancock, Julius Hemphill and Christian McBride. He’s also released more than a dozen albums that range from the intensity of Live at Baker’s [Keyboard Lounge], and the classically-tinged,Caribbean Rhapsody, to At the Crossroads, the first recording of his Organ Trio, which he’ll reprise on Sunday, August 5. Bathed in the shimmering sound of a Hammond B-3, Carter promises to deliver a dynamic performance that reaches from the most gutbucket blues to the celestial, post-Coltrane, sheets-of-sound and beyond.
No other musician has dominated and defined his instrument the way that the 63 year-old Missouri native and NEA Jazz Master Pat Methenyhas done on the guitar since he began making his mark on the jazz scene in the 70s. With a firm command of the legacy of his musical forbearers – from Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall to Gabor Szabo, Tal Farlow and John McLaughlin – Metheny has worked and recorded with an A-list of musicians that includes Charlie Haden, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, Brad Mehldau and Kenny Garrett. He’s also created a guitar sound that is at home in virtually every musical format and genre. Metheny’s albums display a wide berth of those styles, from the classic jazz fusion of Bright Size Life, the folk/rockish American Garageand Song X, the historic, harmolodic collaboration with Ornette Coleman, to the radio-friendly We Live Here, the extended-form masterpiece The Way Up, the ambitious, large ensemble, solenoid-syncopated Orchestrion, and the super trio recording Day Trip, with his long-time Mexican-American drummer, Antonio Sanchez and bassist Christian McBride. On Saturday, August 4, Metheny brings his latest, international group of Young Turks, which includes Sanchez, Australian bassist Linda May Han Oh and British pianist Gwilym Simcock to Newport.Metheny also shares the stage with vocalist José James on Friday, August 3, at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino.
The 2018 Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Investment Managers takes place August 3 – 5 at Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino. Artists include Charles Lloyd’s 80th Birthday Celebration with three different bands; Andra Day; George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic; Jon Batiste; R+R=NOW; Alicia Olatuja; Michel Camilo; Grace Kelly; Laurie Anderson & Christian McBride Improvisations with special guest Rubin Kodheli; Roy Hargrove and many more.
Newport Jazz Festival’s official travel partner, WBGO Jazz 88.3FM, is offering Day Trips and an exclusive Weekend Package for festival fans. For more information, go to wbgo.org/Newport.
Natixis Investment Managers is the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival and sponsors programs that help enrich the lives of individuals and preserve the cultural experience for future generations through music. In addition to Natixis Investment Managers, the Newport Jazz Festival also receives generous support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New Belgium Brewing and Eventbrite.
Newport Festivals Foundation fosters the legacy and expands the impact of its Festivals through educational initiatives that celebrate innovation while preserving the deep traditions inherent in Jazz and Folk music. The Foundation’s goal is to offer opportunity, inspire through exposure and facilitate the collection of resources needed for musicians to celebrate and innovate. The focus on creating unique experiences to spark engagement is accomplished through a variety of initiatives, including instrument donations and performances at schools throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. For more information, please visit www.newportfestivals.org.