USA Radio
Newport, Rhode Island

The Newport Jazz Festival

Listen to jazz in a legendary setting

In the early 1950s, tobacco heir Louis Lorillard and his wife, Elaine, were looking for something new to do during the long, lazy summers in Newport. One night they found themselves sitting in a Boston jazz club called Storyville, chatting with young club owner and pianist George Wein. They liked what they heard, and a year later, with Wein providing the organisational skills and the Lorillards providing a line of credit, the Newport Jazz Festival was born.

That first year, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Lennie Tristano performed, among others. Miles Davis appeared the following year, turning in a performance that launched one of the most legendary periods of his career. Duke Ellington did the same in 1956, finishing his set with a medley that brought down the house and set hundreds of audience members dancing and leaping on to their chairs.

Newport changed the standard method of jazz presentation, giving jazzmen the opportunity to play before huge, appreciative crowds. By the late 1960s, the festival had begun booking rock and R&B acts, which changed its character so much that founder Wein pulled the plug in 1971. For the next ten years, he took his festival around the world, but in 1981 it returned to Newport with a renewed focus on the music that had made it famous. Today, it still attracts the biggest names in jazz each August—McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, Chick Corea, Carla Bley, Bill Frisell and Wynton Marsalis among them.

Other festivals round out Newport’s summer calendar. The Newport Folk Festival, another Wein brainchild, was first presented in 1959 and has seen many historic performances, including Bob Dylan’s notorious ‘Dylan Goes Electric’ set in 1965. Held over three days in early August, the Folk Festival attracts the likes of Richard Thompson, Nanci Griffith, Arlo Guthrie, Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris. The Newport Music Festival, which takes place over three weeks in July, presents more than 60 classical recitals and chamber music programmes in Newport’s spectacular 19th-century ‘cottages’, bringing those days of the Gilded Age back to life.

This trip idea can be found in:

1,000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die®

Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.

Welcome to Discover America!

Now that you have registered, you can save trip ideas to your suitcase.

Start exploring

Enter your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Please check your email.

Start exploring

The password on your account has successfully been changed. Please use your new password to login.

Start exploring

This website is set to 'allow all cookies' for the best user experience. By continuing without changing this setting, you are consenting to this. You may change your settings at any time at the bottom of this page.

More information about cookies

Cookies are very small text files that are stored on your computer when you visit some websites.

We use cookies to make our website easier for you to use. You can remove any cookies already stored on your computer, but these may prevent you from using parts of our website.

If you choose to disable non-essential cookies, the website will:

  • Allow you to log in and remember you are logged in, while in session
  • Determine your country of origin in order to serve you the most relevant version of the site

This website will not:

  • Restrict welcome messaging to the first time you visit the site
  • Track any activity on the site for analytics purposes

More information about cookies