At Newport, there’s excitement when the biggest artists go eclectic

Christian McBride, shown performing at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, is scheduled to appear at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival.
Robert Torres
Christian McBride, shown performing at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, is scheduled to appear at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival.

Young stars extending jazz boundaries at famous festivals didn’t begin with R+R=NOW. One particularly notable example occurred at the Monterey Jazz Festival, where saxophonist Charles Lloyd led Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee, and Jack DeJohnette in a transcendent set in 1966. Their performance became the legendary live album “Forest Flower,” which made a star of Lloyd (and no doubt contributed to Miles Davis hiring DeJohnette and Jarrett for his own bands a few years later).

Lloyd, 80, is still at it more than a half-century later as artist-in-residence at this weekend’s Newport Jazz Festival, where he’ll lead different bands each afternoon. On Friday, he reunites with percussion great Zakir Hussain and drummer Eric Harland, with whom he recorded the live 2004 album “Sangam.” On Saturday comes his superlative New Quartet, with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Harland on drums. And on Sunday, a set billed as Charles Lloyd & Friends will see that same quartet joined by guitarists Marvin Sewell and Stuart Mathis, and special guest vocalist Lucinda Williams. (Williams also joined Lloyd and his band the Marvels on his recent album “We’ve Come Too Far to Turn Around.”)

Other eclecticism from big names this year: Pat Metheny’s quartet with Antonio Sanchez, Linda May Han Oh, and Gwilym Simcock will share a double bill with vocalist José James’s Bill Withers tribute at Friday night’s concert at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with both groups returning for concerts at Fort Adams on Saturday afternoon. Also on Saturday, Newport artistic director Christian McBride will share the Fort Stage with avant-pop artist Laurie Anderson (and cellist Rubin Kodheli), which will get underway just as “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” music director Jon Batiste’s set at the Quad Stage is wrapping up. Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition and Living Colour both have sets Friday, and on Sunday vocalist Gregory Porter will be followed onto the Fort Stage by George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic to conclude the festival.


Women instrumentalists are the other big story this year. Saturday afternoon has pop-leaning saxophonist/vocalist Grace Kelly, avant guitarist (and recent DownBeat cover) Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl project (her standout trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire leads his own band on Sunday), and the duo of clarinetist Anat Cohen and seven-string guitarist Marcello Gonçalves exploring the works of Brazilian composer Moacir Santos. Cohen returns Sunday with the all-female all-star combo Artemis, whose ranks include vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. Jane Bunnett and her all-female Cuban band Maqueque and flutist Nicole Mitchell both have sets that same afternoon, and the Diva Jazz Orchestra will open the Fort Stage late Friday morning.


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At Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, R.I., Aug. 3-5. Tickets and full festival lineup:

Bill Beuttler can be reached at