The 51st anniversary of edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, known for the past 22 years as the JVC Newport Jazz Festival, saved the best for last during its August 12-14 run overlooking fog-shrouded Newport Harbor.
The highlight, in a weekend filled with terrific music, was a 90-minute tribute to the great drummer Roy Haynes. The frequent Newport visitor turned 80 this year, and the festival decided this was a splendid event to honor the jazz world's Dorian Gray, who exudes the hipness, vitality and style of someone less than half his age.
Haynes performed with three tunes with his Fountain of Youth band before he was joined by a succession of old friends. Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Joshua Redman joined the party, with Redman turning in a more powerful and inspired performance than during his own Elastic Band set earlier that afternoon. At one point between mini-sets, the audience, serenaded Haynes with an acapellla version of "Happy Birthday. As a surprise to the crowd, estimated at 6,100, Pat Metheny joined Haynes for a version of his own classic PMG tune, "James. Gary Burton and Steve Swallow turned that duo into a quartet on Burton's "Falling Grace and "Syndrome, and then Corea and McBride returned to join Haynes, Burton and Metheny for the guitarist's "Question and Answer.
It was a satisfying way to end a weekend that had three simultaneous stages brimming with great music, and provided the crowd with some very tough choices: hear one great full set by someone you really liked, or wander for a tapestry of sound emanating from the main stage, the cozier pavilion stage around the corner or the tiny Guitar Stage located along the harbor near the main gate. On Saturday, when the temperatures flirted with triple digits and there was little relief from the heat and humidity, many chased little moving pockets of shade or camped beneath the tented roof of the Pavilion Stage, where most of the musical fire took place all weekend.
Carla Bley and The Lost Chords opened the Pavilion Stage on Saturday in riveting fashion, compete with a 20-minute improvised version of "The Star Spangled Banner. An hour later, the T.S. Monk Sextet overcame the day's heat wave with its own musical fire, offering a bebop agenda and musical tightness that was matched by Sunday's small stage opener by drummer Louis Hayes's Cannonball Legacy Band.
While the choices were tough at times, true jazz lovers couldn't argue that there was nothing there for them. Indeed, for the second year running, Newport seems to have found a creative success borrowed from its past: mainstream jazz is "in again. The festival only had one featured vocalist (Patrica Barber) and one guest singer, 19-year-old Monk Competition finalist Rachael Price with the Monk Sextet. There was no R&B, no pop. There were no jazz smoothies. The closest things to "fusion were truly fusion in the positive sense · an engaging set by Steps Ahead 2005 on Sunday (with Bill Evans stepping in for ailing Michael Brecker); and Saturday's intriguing stringed-instrument trio of banjo ace Bela Fleck, bassist Stanley Clarke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
Of the 30 performances at Fort Adams State Park on Saturday and Sunday, others included the McCoy Tyner trio with guests Ravi Coltrane and Terrell Stafford; the Kurt Rosenwinkel group; Billv Frisell's trio; Medeski Martin and Wood; Charles Lloyd's quartet; the Wynton Marsalis quintet (Marsalis returned on Sunday to guest with Dave Brubeck); the sublime and adventurous Dave Holland Big Band; Don Byron's Ivey-Divey Trio; Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts quartet; Russell
Nearly 300 festival-goers participated in free bone-marrow donor screenings held on the grounds in hopes of finding a match for Brecker (who has myelodysplastic syndrome) or others seeking matches through the national bone marrow transplant registry.
The Dick Johnson-led Artie Shaw Orchestra and entertainer Eartha Kitt opened the weekend on a rainless but foggy Friday evening at Newport Casino, the festival's original home in 1954.