Rhode Island Annual Jazz Festival
July 31, 2011 by Post Team
Rhode Island Annual Jazz Festival, Five years ago, Newport Jazz Festival George Wein businessman told me that talking about the mythical past of the festival was great, but that “some people get even better or we will not be around much longer.”
As the festival is set to take over Fort Adams next weekend, Wein, the entrepreneur who co-founded in 1954, is to keep an eye on the numbers, and likes what he sees.
Speaking last week, Wein said the festival is far ahead of his ticket sales from last year’s numbers. He is the projection of 14,000 people for two days at Fort Adams and says, “I think growth is there.” And it is gratifying for him not only from the point of view, but for what it says about the direction of the festival and its audience: It points to the party program “pure,” featuring a variety of legends jazz and up and newcomers, with little of the kind of crossover pop R & B and many jazz festivals provide.
He and the team at the Newport Festival Foundation are busy arming the groups who will accompany the bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding wunderkind Saturdays and Sundays. So far, will be accompanied by Anat Cohen, Justin Brown, Leo Genovese and Sarah Caswell, Saturday, and Ambrose Akinmusire, Uri Caine Ramaswamy, Shalini, Terri Lynne Carrington and Aaron Burnette Sunday. Some of these players will already be at the festival, and some are brought from New York.
Putting it all together is “hard work, but it’s fun,” says Wein. It is also worth, he says, to get some partnerships going and break the feel of a band doing a whole other band and doing a whole and on and on the weekend. “What happens now is really creating a sense of festival,” says Wein, 85. “… I feel like a kid again!”
Wein says he is looking forward to hearing the music, of course, but will actually be keeping an eye on how musicians go to the public. Spalding, for example, is doing “some really deep. I am very interested in audience response, and that is the key to the future.”
He is also interested in reaction to the Japanese pianist Hiromi, who will play solo on Saturday and Sunday with his new trio and the dynamic Trombone Shorty, “which is actually more entertaining than the group we have.
“Everything has a purpose, but no one [act] I know what will happen.”
For the first time in its history, the jazz festival is running as a non-profit, Wein says he has had a positive effect on the sponsors, as well as giving you the ability to attract donations. He adds, “The future is not certain yet. I mean whether it can continue if something happens to me. You can not make money without [sponsorship] support in Fort Adams, even with a full house.”
The company Newport Alex and Ani jewelry is sponsoring the third stage (such as sold-out festival, which concludes Sunday in Fort Adams) and bracelets to give everyone at the festival. They are the first company in Rhode Island to get a big sponsorship, either in Newport festival: “That’s a great thing, and I think it’s great,” says Wein.
But it all comes down to players. In 1954, the motto of the Newport Jazz Festival was “Jazz from J to Z” and in 2011, says Wein, who remains true.
“The show must go on what happens in jazz. This is what musicians are playing. Jazz music has always been one of the musicians.”
The Newport Jazz Festival begins Friday with a concert by Wynton Marsalis and Michael Feinstein in the Hall of Fame Tennis Internatonal, in Bellevue Avenue. Continues Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 7 pm at Fort Adams. For tickets, information and a full schedule, go to www.newportjazzfest.net.
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