The festival, which ran August 11-15 at Fort Adams State Park in Rhode Island, was something of an experiment for impresario George Wein and his company, Festival Productions, in that it focused entirely on jazz, excluding the pop music that had been included in previous years.
Highlights included a tribute to saxophonist John Coltrane featuring pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Dave Holland, and the Brian Blade Quartet. Also among the performers were pianist Dave Brubeck Quartet, vocalist Dianne Reeves, pianist/singer Jamie Cullum, bandleader Harry Connick Jr., and saxophonist Branford Marsalis. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra recreated Duke Ellington's famous 1956 performance of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," with saxophonist James Carter attempting Paul Gonsalves' titanic solo.
Founded in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival has spawned countless versions around the world, many of them run by Festival Productions.
Newport Jazz Festival 1954-2004: Fiftieth Anniversary will be seen on, among other stations, Denver's KRMA on April 2, New Jersey's WNN on April 4, Tampa's WUSF on April 17, and New York's WLIW on May 1. Check local listings for other broadcasts.