Jazz attracts all ages to Newport

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I’m sitting in the sun, looking over the heads of a much younger audience who think nothing of standing for hours to hear good music.

It is late Friday afternoon and the jazz fusion group Thundercat is entertaining the young standees, while we older folk are sitting in our lawn chairs.

Acts like Thundercat, Domi and JD Beck are attracting a new generation of jazz enthusiasts that only a few years ago we thought we had lost.

Jazz legend pianist Herbie Hancock is appealing to all ages, energizing the laid back late afternoon audience.

With four stages of music over three days at the Newport Jazz Festival, there was certainly something for everyone. From the smooth, taunting voice of Corrine Bailey Rae to the three-time Grammy winners, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, to sax player Gary Bartz, the art form is appealing to a wide age range.

Friday night was Jazz Heaven at the Newport Casino, where Jon Batiste put on one heck of a show. New Orleans born Batiste grew up surrounded by jazz and jazz players. Last year, he played both the folk and jazz festivals. He is perhaps best known for leading the band on The Late Show. Batiste held the large audience spellbound, opening with a jazz version of the National Anthem, playing familiar tunes like Duke Ellington’s “The A Train,” doing unbelievable things with his piano, and then inviting three other pianists to play dueling piano with him. It was one of Newport’s and the festival’s most shining nights.

The festival continued with jazz greats Dianne Reeves, Ron Carter, and a number of first-time artists, closing with Common. That’s right, Common, the rap singer/actor, who actually has a terrific jazz voice.

While the Jazz Festival doesn’t sell out like the Folk Festival, it appears to be growing by reaching out to new jazz fans and keeping us old timers coming back for more. Plan on joining them next August.

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