Wynton Marsalis performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, R.I., Aug. 6, 2011.
Wynton Marsalis performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, R.I., Aug. 6, 2011.

It’s been one of the hottest summers ever in the Eastern United States, and the season is not even half over.  But, no matter how high temperatures rise, a near-record turnout is expected August 3 - 5 for the Newport Jazz Festival.

Newport, Rhode Island is certainly one destination for those wanting to tour stately mansions, indulge in cool breezes along scenic Ocean Drive, stop by Bannister’s Wharf, or spend a few hours at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum.  But, for thousands more, the city’s hotspot is the Newport Jazz Festival.  

Since 1954, the festival has presented its share of legendary performers.  In fact, the very first event, under the direction of founder George Wein, featured mostly headliners: Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Errol Garner, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. 

The 1958 festival was the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Jazz On A Summer’s Day.  Its current location at Fort Adams State Park offers a backdrop of sailboats gliding across Newport Harbor, a crafts market, famous New England delicacies, and three stages of jazz and blues.

The festival kicks off on August 3 with a tribute to the “Birthplace of Jazz,” New Orleans, Louisiana. Acts will include The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr. John & The Lower 911, featuring singer and pianist Jon Cleary.  Thirty more groups will follow over the weekend, including the Pat Metheny Unity Band, Bill Frisell performing from the John Lennon Songbook, the Jack DeJohnette All-Stars, the Joe Lovano-Dave Douglas Quintet, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors, and vocalists Gretchen Parlato, Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves.