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I have been covering the Newport Jazz Festival for WHUS FM for the last 5 years, and the 2013 festival is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure to attend.

Musically, the festival covered a wide range of jazz styles; fusion, latin, avant garde, funk, modern post-bop. So many of the artists were exploring new sounds. There was a lot of experimentation with electronics and effects creating interesting sonic textures. Rhythmically the music was moving away from bop and more towards progressive rock-fusion or “free” jazz. In general I felt that most of the musicians, young and old were taking the music beyond its reliance on traditional jazz constructs from the past.

Highlights at the festival for me were:

The Festival was themed as an 80th birthday celebration for Wayne Shorter. Herbie Hancock was his special guest. They played a duo performance before Shorter’s quartet took over with a rousing somewhat avant-garde set. Wayne took a much more aggressive role in his playing than I had seen in his past performances with this group. Herbie took the stage again at the end of the set to share the piano with Danilo Perez in a 4 hands one piano accompaniment.

Terrence Blanchard with a surprise appearance by Herbie sitting in to play Footprints. Terrence’s entire performance was memorable. It was a modern sound, with subtle electronic effects that provided sonic interest but did not overwhelm the music.

Chick Corea’s new band was reminiscent his electric bands of the fusion era, with a bit of a latin feel, and based more on Chick’s compositions and arrangements than the musicians pyrotechnics.

Jon Batiste brought the New Orleans feel to his music with a fresh modern sound. It combined R&B with straight ahead jazz chops. His use of the melodica added an interesting twist to his great performance.

Gregory Porter is an outstanding new vocal force in jazz. You can hear the influence of R&B and Gospel with his tremendous vocal chops. He has a talented jazz band that know how to swing hard to his tunes.

Guitarist David Gilmore was the final show we saw at the Festival. He had a great All-Star band with Miguel Zenon (sax), Jeff Tain Watts (dr), Christian McBride (b), Luis Perdermo (p) and Claudia Acuna (v). They played his Numerology suite, an hour long set that was smoking.

Other notable performances we saw: Marcus Miller, Mary Halverson, Robert Glasper Experiment, Eddie Palmieri Salsa Band, Bill Charlap w/Anat Cohen & Bob Wilber, Lew Tabakin, Joshua Redman, URI Big Band, Jim Hall, Hiromi, (and more).

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