The Newport Jazz Festival is a music festival held every August in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was established in 1954 by the jazz impresario George Wein, prompted by socialite Elaine Lorillard, whose wealthy husband helped finance the festival's startup.
The Newport Jazz Festival moved to New York City in 1972 and became a two site festival in 1981 when it returned to Newport and also continued in New York. The festival has been known as the JVC Jazz Festival since 1984.
Most of the early festivals were broadcast on Voice Of America radio and many performances were recorded and have been issued by various record labels.
A reconstructed Ellington at Newport from his 1956 performance was re-issued in 1999. Aside from the actual festival performance of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," including the distant-sounding Paul Gonsalves saxophone solo, the original album used re-creations, note for note, of some of the set's highlights which were secretly re-recorded in the studio against Ellington's objection. The new set restored the original festival performance after a recording from the Voice of America (which broadcast the performance) was discovered and, among other things, the odd timbre of the Gonsalves performance. Gonsalves, it turned out, stepped up to the wrong microphone to play his legendary solo: he stepped up to the VOA microphone and not the band's. Gonsalves' performance originally caused a near riot in the festival crowd.
The film Jazz on a Summer's Day documented the 1958 festival. The 1958 performances of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae were released on the 1958 album Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday at Newport.
That year, boisterous fans carried away with the music created a major disturbance, and the National Guard was called to the scene. Word that the disturbances had meant the end of the festival, following the Sunday afternoon blues presentation headlined by Muddy Waters, reached poet Langston Hughes, who was in a meeting on the festival grounds. Hughes wrote an impromptu lyric, "Goodbye Newport Blues," that he brought to the Waters band onstage, announcing their likewise impromptu musical performance of the piece himself, before Waters pianist Otis Spann led the band and sang the Hughes poem.
Despite the difficulties of 1960, the festival resumed in Newport in 1961 from June 30th through July 3rd. Featured performers included Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and Dave Brubeck who, to the delight of a very damp audience, played "Pennies from Heaven" during a rain shower.
The great line up of Newport 1962 is also documented in a film (released by Storyville). Among the performers are Lambert,Hendricks & Bavan , Oscar Peterson Trio, Roland Kirk, Duke Ellington & finally a fantastic closing with Count Basie Orchestra and Jimmy Rushing.
A riot at the 1971 festival caused it to leave Newport until 1981.