I have never been to Newport and thought it would be cool to conduct a Fact Finding Mission before I take the JAZZ.FM91 Jazz Safari to the 60th Annual Jazz Festival at the end of this month. I can say without a doubt that Newport is now one of my favourite cities in America, number three after New Orleans and New York…what is it with the U.S. and cities with the name NEW in them?
First stop: Boston. I arrived Saturday morning and bee-lined from the airport to The Beehive for their jazz brunch. In the past when I visited, the city was teeming with University students and the he streets and nightclubs were jam-packed. This time, aside from a pub watching the World Cup, it was quite mellow. Berklee students were no where to be seen but I made a few new friends, had a great meal and walked for hours. I didn’t party wildly because my mission was to get to Newport early the next day and in 24 hours discover all I could about this town that was new to me!
Upon arriving in Newport, I quickly dropped off my bags and jumped on a tour bus. Bob was a knowledgeable local and I only had one family of four riding with us, so it was pretty much a private tour. I took a tourist trip on a “normal” bus first and then hired a cabbie to show me specific places. I met so many wonderful locals and they all were pleased to share their love and knowledge of Newport with me.
Newport was founded on separation of Church and State and you can feel it immediately. People seem more relaxed and open-minded than most cities in North America. The architecture is fabulous…from cute little Maritime-like homes to ginormous estates, including several mansions and beaches that can be seen in major motion pictures like The Great Gatsby (Redford and Farrow), High Society (Sinatra and Crosby), Evening (Close and Streep), Meet Joe Black (Hopkins and Pitt) and Amistad (Hopkins and Freeman).
While I was there I bumped into a man working on the set of a new Woody Allen movie starring Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix. As I left Newport they were a few hours away from shooting…I kept thinking, “if I see Woody Allen, I’ll call our mutual friend and walk up to him and say “Mr. Allen, Dick Hyman is on the phone and would like to say a quick hello if you have a moment.” That never happened.
The grounds for the Newport Jazz Festival are at Fort Adams, which was established in 1799 as a coastal fortification. (Captain John Henry was its first commander – we’ll try to forget he was instrumental in starting the War of 1812, cuz we won that and Canadians have never been known as “sore winners”.) This is a wonderful, gorgeous, historical place to host a jazz fest – and as many locals will point out, it was the first true Jazz Festival ever! Years before Monterey, Montreal and New Orleans. The festival Fort Adams became the site for Newport Jazz Festival in 1981. The best way to get there is by water taxi…just a ten-minute scoot!
By they way: There is still room for one more couple to join me in Newport July 31-August 4 and also one stop has opened up for The Monterey Jazz Festival September 15th-22nd. Coming on an International Jazz Safari with Ross Porter and I is something you’ll never forget! To find out more:
or visit: http://www.jazz.fm