The History of the Legendary Newport Jazz Festival

The Newport Jazz Festival is an iconic annual multi-day American jazz music festival held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island. It was established in 1954 by Elaine and Louis Lorillard, who funded it for many years. They hired George Wein to organize the first festival and bring jazz to Rhode Island. The festival has seen many changes over the years, from its first film dedicated to music in 1959, to its experiment in 1969 merging jazz, soul and rock music, and their respective audiences.

In 1991, an older and wiser Newport Jazz Festival returned to its Rhode Island home. In celebration of its 60th anniversary, the festival was held at Fort Adams State Park for three days. The festival has been a platform for some of the best live jazz albums, from Anita O'Day, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Giuffre and others. It has also seen some controversy, such as the protest organized by musicians Charles Mingus and Max Roach in protest against the festival paying jazz innovators less compared to more popular artists.

Today, Newport continues to honor the old school while encouraging rising innovators. Jazz has become increasingly borderless in the information age, producing new amalgams. The festival has also seen sponsors naming rights for concerts, such as Kool Cigarettes taking over sponsorship in 1981 and renaming it the Kool Jazz Festival. The Newport Jazz Festival is a legendary event that has survived riots, rock and revolution to give birth to some of the best live jazz albums. It is a platform for both established and rising innovators in jazz music.

Morris Ferranti
Morris Ferranti

Lifelong tv scholar. Certified web fan. Web evangelist. Friendly zombie nerd. Extreme twitter aficionado.

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