Newport Jazz Festival Begins a New Era, With History as a Guide

Henry Threadgill or Naturally 7 or One For All or DJ Logic, whoever it is — there’s some sort of a spiritual, unspoken, musical bond there with all of it,” he said, naming an avant-garde pioneer, a gospel-tinged a cappella group, a straight-ahead jazz sextet and a turntablist, all of whom were on the bill at this year’s festival.

The Roots — not likely to have been booked by Mr. Wein — closed the festival on Sunday afternoon, charging from Herbie Hancock acid-funk (“Actual Proof”) to a hard-bitten original (“Get Busy”) to a rollicking “Jungle Boogie.” More than in years past, the main stage featured music to move to. The pianist Jason Moran brought his Fats Waller Dance Party, making a ricocheting funk jam out of old repertoire and allowing the vocalist Lisa Harris to reinhabit the classic self-possession anthem “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” paring down the lyrics, letting her sighs and her body movements communicate her pride.

And the saxophonist Maceo Parker reprised a handful of tunes from the James Brown songbook, playing whiplash funk with an eight-piece group that was locked like lattice.

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Maceo Parker performed with an eight-piece group at the Newport Jazz Festival.

Credit
Steve Benoit/Boston Concert Photography

Mr. McBride’s choices made other arguments too. He elevated a number of musicians from his native Philadelphia, where jazz’s inheritance machinery is especially strong; the music there retains an intergenerational coherence without passing through the filter of the academy.

The pianist Orrin Evans, a Philadelphia native, made his first appearance as a band leader at Newport. (That fact should astonish you; he’s been worthy for about 20 years.) He finished a set of characteristically chunky and waggish solo piano at the sole indoor stage with a tender reading of Trudy Pitts’s “Blessed Ones the Eternal Truth,” a plea for sanctified fellowship; Mr. Evans sang guilelessly, drawing up chords from the keys in a simple, quarter-note rhythm. As the song progressed, more treble and sunlight crept in; by the end the room was silent and rapt around him.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. McBride reassembled the Philadelphia Experiment, a trio of cross-pollinated talent, featuring Questlove, the Roots’ drummer, and Uri Caine, the keyboardist. (DJ Logic joined on turntables as a special guest.) The…

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