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Bask in the Glory of the Newport Jazz Festival, With Newport Jazz Revival Radio at WBGO

We couldn’t make it to the Newport Jazz Festival this year, but we’ll still be swinging.

After the COVID-related cancelations of both the jazz and folk festivals in Newport, our friends at the Newport Festivals Foundation got to work on a contingency plan. Central to that effort was a series of broadcasts pulling from their historic trove of festival recordings, stretching back some 65 years.

The result is Newport Jazz Revival Radio, which WBGO is proud to present this Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. EDT and on Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. EDT.


The broadcast will encompass eight hours of music from the Newport Jazz Festival archives — mostly presented as full sets, complete with stage banter. Which means we’ll hear from Dizzy Gillespie in 1959, when he began his set with “Newport Blues,” as well as Makaya McCraven six decades later, when he brought his slippery beat science to the Quad.

Also among the all-star lineup: a searching John Coltrane Quartet in ’61, a blazing Freddie Hubbard Quintet in ’64, and a crisp Wes Montgomery Quartet in ’67. Not to mention The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, owning the stage in ’69.

Credit Flickr
Herbie Hancock at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival

Highlights from a later vintage include Jon Batiste and Stay Human in 2014, weeks before they took their post on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; Sons of Kemet and Cécile McLorin Salvant, each throwing down in 2019; and an all-star trio I had the privilege of introducing last year, with Herbie Hancock on piano and keyboards, Christian McBride on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. (You will want to hear this.)

McBride, who has been artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival since 2016, also serves of course as host of Jazz Night in America. He had a direct role in curating Newport Jazz Revival Radio, and he’ll be our host throughout the program.

Jazz Revival Radio joins a three-part Newport Jazz Festival series produced by Jazz Night in America, which similarly pulls priceless material from the festival vault. Listen here:

The Golden Age | The Stars Shine | The Modern All-Stars

And as if that weren’t enough, stay tuned for a special Newport Jazz-focused episode of our podcast Jazz United, co-hosted by me and Greg Bryant.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Newport Festivals Foundation Virtual Gala, which takes place on Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT; and Jazz Together, a special gathering at the Newport Jazz Facebook page on Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT. 

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.