The Newport Jazz Festival was already an established institution in 1959, its sixth year of operation. George Wein’s annual outdoor bash on Narragansett Bay in Newport, Rhode Island had been extensively covered by Down Beat magazine since its inception in 1955 and was thoroughly examined in Bert Stern’s stunning 1958 documentary, Jazz on a Summer’s Day. And jazz fans continued to flock to Acquidneck Island in record numbers to take in the sun and savor the sounds at this grand event. As Wein declared in a press conference at the time: “The name ‘Newport’ is synonymous with jazz, and signifies the most single event in the history of jazz. Success at Newport did more to help jazz and increase the prestige of jazz than anything else in the world.”
The lineup at the 1959 festival reads like a Who’s Who in Jazz, featuring legends like Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Erroll Garner, Gene Krupa and Dizzy Gillespie interspersed with new stars like Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Mann and the Mastersounds (a popular quartet at the time led by Wes Mongtomery’s brothers Monk on electric bass and Buddy on vibraphone). There was something for everybody at the 1959 edition of Wein’s clambake. Captured in remarkable clarity 50 years ago, these historic concerts are now available for streaming and downloading, via the Concert Vault.
-Playlist curated by esteemed jazz writer and Jaco Pastorius biographer Bill Milkowski.