Newport Jazz Fest Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary

Aug 1, 2014

The Newport Jazz Festival kicks off Friday, this is the 60th anniversary of the festival that was first held at the Newport Casino and along Bellevue Avenue.   The festival survived rock and roll and rowdy crowds.

Festival founder George Wein said even though the Newport Folk Festival sells more tickets than the Jazz Festival, he’s not worried about the future of jazz. “Well jazz will go where the musicians take it. They’ll always want to play, and as long as they want to play someone will want to listen,” said Wein. “So hey, the musicians will take it wherever it’s going, I don’t worry about that. I just hope I’m around to be there when it goes.”

Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein says it was a happy day when the festival returned to Newport after a stint in New York City.
Credit Catherine Welch / RIPR

Wein moved the festival to New York City back in the early 1970’s, then brought it back to Newport in the 1980’s.  Gary Bongiovanni is editor in chief of Pollstar, a festival trade publication. He said the Fort Adams location is part of what makes the festival iconic.

“If you're looking to do a commercial venture, Jazz is not what you're going to hang your future to,” said Bongiovanni. “George has curated a good festival from the beginning. It's part of what people expect. They may not know who George is, but they know the quality of the festival.”

The 88-year-old Wein will be playing in his own festival on Sunday with the Newport All-Stars. Other musicians on the Jazz Festival’s bill include Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis and Ravi Coltrane the son of jazz great John Coltrane.