Summertime is peak season for jazz festivals across the United States. From coast to coast, in small towns and big cities, fans have been lining up early for the best seats in the house, or depending on the venue, the most comfortable spot on the lawn. This year's JVC Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, is still considered one of the top destinations for the serious jazz fan.
For those who wait all year for live jazz, the only summer weekend worth waiting for begins and ends with Newport's JVC Jazz Festival. That's not to say there aren't any other great jazz festivals. It's just that once you've been to Newport, chances are you'll be back.
Tradition is one of the festival's main calling cards. Since 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival, as it was first known, has had its share of big names. The early years featured Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, The Count Basie Band and Bill Evans. Later, after moving its locale to New York City to escape unruly crowds, it returned to Newport under the sponsorship of the JVC Corporation. With a backdrop of sailboats on Narragansett Bay, the tastiest delicacies New England has to offer, and three stages providing non-stop jazz, it's no wonder flights are booked, hotel rooms reserved and concerts sold out 52 weeks in advance.
Making his debut at the JVC Jazz Festival in Newport is singer and guitarist John Pizzarelli, who officially opens the festivities with vocalist Jane Monheit on August 11th. The John Pizzarelli Big Band will pay tribute to Frank Sinatra with music from his new CD, Dear Mr. Sinatra. Sinatra made his one and only appearance at the festival in 1965, arriving by helicopter and reserving 250 box seats for his entourage.
Entrances are far more subdued these days, despite the hourly coming and going of musicians. More than 30 acts are scheduled for the weekend of August 12 and 13, including George Benson, Al Jarreau, Dr. John and The Lower 911, Chris Botti, The McCoy Tyner Septet and Arturo Sandoval, as well as the ageless Dave Brubeck, who travels far and wide to perform his jazz classic "Take Five."