It was a picture-perfect summer day Friday at Fort Adams State Park, where “Newport Jazz Presents,” the 2021 version of the Newport Jazz Festival, kicked off in style. The Festival was downsized this year due to the pandemic – approximately half the usual number of tickets were sold and music was heard on only two stages instead of the usual four.
That didn’t dampen the spirit of the Festival. It was clear to artists and fans that the 2021 event was something special. In fact, several performers mentioned it was their first live gig since the pandemic. The sell-out crowd, with fans spanning several generations, was equally thrilled to be there.
Avery*Sunshine opened the Quad Stage with an upbeat set of tunes, including her hit “I Got Sunshine.” As always, there was a variety of music at the Festival from the more traditional jazz of artists like the Robert Glasper Acoustic Trio to the Latin influenced beat of Arturo O”Farrill. Artistic Director Christian McBride was there, leading his band A Christian McBride Situation through a set that included some beats and more from DJ Logic.
R&B sensation Yola returned to the Fort with an inspiring set, less than a week after playing the Folk Festival. And sax great Kamasi Washington was triumphant in his return to the Newport, leading his nine-piece band through a rousing set of music. The hard-to-categorize (Thai Funk?) band Khruangbin blew away those in attendance, even returning to the stage for a late-day encore. No doubt, this was one of the best line-ups in years. Kudos NJF!
Our photographer Rick Farrell, fresh off the injured reserve list, was there to document the occasion. Check out his photos below.