George Wein's CareFusion Jazz Festival 55 Newport, Rhode Island August 7-9, 2009 In this 40th anniversary summer of Woodstock, the musical love-in took place in Newport, not upstate New York.
And it wasn't a matter of nostalgia. It was all about the Phoenix-like return of the jazz festival after a winter of uncertainty. Once something goes awayor is threatened with going awayyou find out how much it is appreciated.
That was the case this past weekend for George Wein
. Many will recall that the company that bought his Festival Productions Inc. operation 2 1/2 years ago and ran it into the ground financially under the aegis of Festival Network LLC, yet retained naming rights to the Newport Jazz Festival and the companion Newport Folk Festival.
Wein came out of semi-retirement to ensure his 55-year Newport legacy survives. He had help from longtime staff, an army of fellow musicians, some of whom have worked for him and/or with him for five decades or more, and a new sponsor, the San Diego-based health-care products and services company CareFusion. "The warmth I've received this weekend is unbelievable," Wein said. "I've never hugged so many musicians in my life. They've made this the most beautiful weekend in my life."
Musically, there was something for everyone at George Wein's CareFusion Jazz Festival 55 on a weekend with an announced total attendance of 12,800, the largest crowds6,000 showing up on August 8, a postcard-perfect Saturday. (Not as many as were present for the 50th anniversary of the start of the Newport Folk Festival the prior week, when Saturday attendance alone topped 9,000, but a good turnout given the health of the economy and the many choices for today's music consumer.)
There was hard bop, mainstream jazz, Latin, avant-garde, rock-influenced jazz from younger groups like The Bad Plus
, as well as By Any Means(alto saxophonist Charles Gayle, bassist William Parker, and drummer Muhammad Ali subbing for brother Rashied Ali, whom we just lost). Rapper-actor Mos Def was Saturday's headliner with his Watermelon Syndicate. The set may have felt inappropriate to some, yet the band's musical underpinnings were strong and creative, particularly on his update of John Colrane's "A Love Supreme."
Marsalis Music owned the intimate Waterside Stage on Saturday, presenting pianist Joey Calderazzo
quartet. And Marsalis sat in with virtually all of his labelmatesand the two student bands, which turned more than a few heads.
As Newport attendees soon learn, you have to pick your spots as a listenergiven the musical swirl of three stages.
Wein sitting in on the finale, "All of Me," with the Anat Cohen-Howard Alden quartet, which opened the music Friday night at historic Newport Casino, the very first home of the Newport Jazz Festival back in 1954.
Singer Acuna's breezy bilingual set on the Waterside Stage. Even if you don't know the words when she sings in her native Spanish, the Chilean beauty's way with a song touches you with her heart-felt emotion.
's trio, SonicBloom, had much the same impact a day earlier as she opened with an inside-turns-outside version of "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" and closed with an arrangement of Ellington-Tizol's "Caravan" that started with bombast and melodic hints before resolving to its old self.