It’s always a dilemma, choosing which acts to follow at the Newport Jazz Festival. You’d think it would be easier this year, with just two stages. It’s not.

I’ve been going to the Jazz Festival for more than 20 years – consecutively – and the array of talent has been extraordinary. The best in jazz gathers on the Festival’s stages each year, and rarely disappoints.

So, Ken Abrams, our Lifestyle Editor at WhatsUpNewp, suggested that as a devout jazz fan I should put together my top picks for the Festival. Ken does this weekly, highlighting his picks for concerts around Rhode Island, and, of course, for the Festivals. 

Thanks Ken, I’ll give it a try.

Of course, the acts you choose to see are often based on individual taste. If you like drummers … the Festival has drummers. Sax, you say, or bass, or legends, or female vocalists, big bands, little bands, and even a harpist. And it’s always fun to discover the young talent, and there’s plenty of it.

Here are some of the performers, I particularly want to see – no affront to the others. It’s just hard to be in two places at the same time.

  • Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. I don’t recall when I first saw Trombone Shorty. Possibly it was at Snug Harbor in New Orleans. But I’ve been hooked ever since, drawn in by his, and the group’s, energy. If you like horns, you’ll like Trombone Shorty. He’s the closing act on Saturday on the Lawn Stage.
  • Andra Day, her portrayal of Billie Holiday won her a Golden Globe award and Academy Award nomination. She’s one of seven female vocalists that will appear throughout the Festival, and each is worth hearing. She’ll close out the Festival on Sunday on the Lawn Stage. Don’t forget to catch some of the other female vocalists, they are all worth seeing.
  • Charles Lloyd, whose career ranges from jazz to the Beach Boys. An NEA Jazz Master Fellow, Lloyd has been recognized as among the elite saxophonists, winning numerous awards, including Lifetime Achievement Awards from Jazz Gallery and the San Sebastian Jazz Festival. He’ll be on the Quad Stage on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
  • Mavis Staples, 82, a member of the Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. She’s a longtime Civil Rights Activist, was a Kennedy Center Honoree, and a two-time Grammy winner and 13-time nominee. She’s on he Lawn Stage at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Brandee Younger, a jazz harpist – actually jazz, classical, soul and funk. She’s on the Lawn Stage on Sunday at noon.
  • Christian McBride, the Festival’s artistic director and arguably the best jazz bassist on the planet. Winner of multiple Grammy awards, McBride will appear on the Lawn Stage at 1:30 p.m. Friday with A Christian McBride Situation, and on the Lawn Stage with The Jam Jawn at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Arturo O’Farrill, a seven-time Grammy winner, opens the Lawn Stage on Friday at noon. A pianist, composer, and educator, O’Farrill was born in Mexico, the son of Cuban composer Chico O’Farrill. Arturo remains a strong advocate for the Cuban people.
  • Ledisi, another of the array of female vocalists, will pay tribute to Nina Simone, closing the Quad Stage at 5:05 p.m. Saturday. I’m also intrigued by the background of young female vocalist, Danielle Ponder, who spent five years as a public defender before becoming a full-time vocalist. Danielle opens the Quad Stage on Saturday at 11:20 a.m. Speaking of female vocalists, you can catch Yola, described as an “English dynamo” on the Lawn Stage on Friday at 3 p.m.
  • Saxophonist Kenny Garrett, a Grammy winner and seven-time nominee, has played with Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, and has won a dozen Downbeat awards. He’s on the Quad Stage at 2 p.m. Saturday.
  • And everybody else. Can’t wait to see who I discover for the first time. 

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.