Over the summer, I had an amazing opportunity through The University of Rhode Island to help out at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival. With this opportunity, I was able to go to the festival and evaluate sets at the Storyville stage.
This was my first experience going to not only the jazz festival but to a jazz show in general. Additionally, it was my first experience going to a concert that was, what I would consider, tame. Every year I go to concerts that usually fall under the alternative/punk rock genre. The norm at concerts for me is seeing mosh pits and people crowd surfing. I rarely leave a show not drenched in sweat or feeling like I ran a marathon, which for me would be an amazing feat. I’m used to waking up the next morning being extremely sore and finding bruises on my legs that could have arisen from many different reasons.
So imagine, someone like me, used to the alternative scene shows (think Warped Tour-esq) going to a jazz festival. I had no idea what to expect, though I was extremely excited for the opportunity to get to see what it was all about.
When I first arrived at the festival located at Fort Adams, I got my ticket, my assignment and went in. I took the opportunity to walk around and found the vibe of the entire fort to be calm but with an excited energy floating around. I was very surprised to see seats set up at stages and people bringing picnic baskets and lawn chairs. Although this wasn’t my typical scene, I embraced it, grabbing a chair and listening to the first jazz band of the day.
For the day, I was assigned to the Storyville stage, which featured a lot of piano playing from the likes of Rossano Sportiello, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Cory Smythe. All three of those acts brought something special with their piano playing, making it enjoyable to see their different movements and hear the different sounds each artist made with the same instrument. Brass quartet, The Westerlies, later played at the stage. They blew me away with their impressive skills and the way they seemed to so effortlessly play their instruments.
While enjoying all of the sets, I had the chance to watch the crowd’s reaction to the performers. I noticed that nobody was on their phones filming or taking pictures while watching each set. It feels like every show you go to, people record and Snapchat the entire concert. While I am guilty of small Snapchat stories of some of my favorite bands, it was a relief to see people just connecting with the jazz. They were taking it at face value and enjoying it for what it was. That is one thing I think our generation could learn from the lovers of jazz; just enjoy the music and the performance in the moment.
Getting the opportunity to experience a vastly different genre of music was extremely special to me. It gave me the chance to appreciate another form of music that I may not have listened to on my own. I want to do an experiment and go to shows I normally wouldn’t and see the differences in not only the music, but the crowd as well.
I would highly recommend attending a jazz show at least once in your life. Not only is the music fantastic, but the atmosphere is relaxing and the audience actually appreciates the music being played.
The Newport Jazz Festival has released dates for next year’s event. For more information, go to http://www.newportjazzfest.org/.