© 2024 WBGO
Discover Jazz...Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Get hype for Newport Jazz with our festival preview in Take Five

Trombone Shorty performing at the 2021 Newport Jazz Festival.
Jonathan Chimene
Trombone Shorty performing at the 2021 Newport Jazz Festival.

A lot of great music is ahead this weekend at the Newport Jazz Festival, and WBGO can help get you there. Meanwhile, here are five acts to get excited about.

Ron Carter, Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Ron Carter, the bassist, bandleader, composer and NEA Jazz Master, turned 85 this year. Naturally he celebrated in style — with a birthday concert at Carnegie Hall and a Tiny Desk Concert recorded at the Blue Note Jazz Club. His colleagues in this elegant session are pianist Donald Vega and guitarist Russell Malone; at Newport he'll be leading a quartet, but with the same bespoke refinement and casual mastery.

esperanza spalding, "Formwela 12 (featuring Carmen de Lavallade)"

For esperanza spalding — bassist, singer, conceptualist, composer — the Newport Jazz Festival is a familiar stomping ground, stretching back well over a decade. She has always been a moving target, creatively speaking, so it remains to be seen what she'll present at Fort Adams this year. There's a good chance it will have something to do with her Songwrights Apothecary Lab, which released its most recent piece in video form this spring, featuring legendary dancer, actor and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade along with the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Makaya McCraven, "A Slice of The Top (AKA Sliced Off The Top)"

As you may have read recently — maybe even in this space — Makaya McCraven has a new album around the corner. He will no doubt play some of that material at Newport this weekend, but his current set list also includes choice morsels from the recent album Deciphering the Message, which he made in collaboration with Blue Note Records. Here's a taste of that release, which remixes Hank Mobley's "A Slice of the Top"; the sampled voice you hear belongs to Pee Wee Marquette.

Jazzmeia Horn, "Strive (To Be)"

By now it goes without saying that Jazzmeia Horn will turn it all the way up in performance. She's done that at the Newport Jazz Festival, notably in 2018, and there is every reason to believe she'll top herself this year. Do I sense some doubt? Let me refer you to her recent in-studio performance at KEXP, during her first-ever visit to Seattle. The set opens with a recent original, "Strive (To Be)," which Horn variously approaches like a Coltrane-esque modal anthem, an R&B pocket groove, and an urgent exhortation.

Trombone Shorty, "Lifted"

Earlier this month, at the North Sea Jazz Festival, I witnessed Trombone Shorty whip a packed arena into some kind of frenzy. That doesn't come easily, but it seemed to come easily to him — which makes sense, if you've been watching the arc of his career. The clip above, from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, captures the bottled-up energy of his band as they play "Lifted," the title track from a new album. At Newport, Trombone Shorty will appear in quite a different context, as part of an all-star combo closing the fest with a tribute to its late founder, George Wein. Don't think, however, that a more straight-ahead setting means fewer fireworks shooting out of his horn.

For more information about the Newport Jazz Festival, see its official site.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.