Newport by bus

As an enclave of the newly gilded during the Gilded Age, the town of Newport, Rhode Island was   somewhat privileged by its relative isolation. The easiest ways to get to this promontory during the 1890s may have been by making a fortune in railroads, or by yacht — the old town (dating from 1639) has long been considered sailing capitol of the U.S. In some circles, though, it’s better known as home to the Newport Jazz Festival starting in 1954.

In its early years the Newport jazz fest broke some race, class and entertainment barriers, but during the past decade it’s become cost-prohibitive for New York jazz fans who can hear most of the acts without leaving town and paying exhorbitant rates for the weekend’s lodging. So this year, the festival fights back with chartered buses offering day trips starting in and returning to Manhattan or Brooklyn for a single fee that includes price of the entry ticket. 

It’s about a four-hour ride from New York to Newport, not much fun navigating frlm the thruway I-95 through commercial avenues into the town itself, then trailing in slow-mo through residential streets to arrive at Ft. Adams State Park. So I think it’s a mark of near-genius (or at least thoughtful creativity) that the WLC Entertainment Group is offering a round-trip, from 6:30 am to midnight, by luxury bus, snacks and party favors available on board, one fest entry included for $200.

That may not sound like a great bargain until you count up the alternatives. Then you’ll find it is. And considering that the JVC Jazz Festival Newport lineup this year is stellar — Saturday Aug. 9 featuring Aretha Franklin, Wayne Shorter, the trio of bassist Charlie Haden, pianist Ethan Iverson and guitarist Bill Frisell, the quartet of bassist Dave Holland, pianist Gonazalo Rubalcaba, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Eric Harland, among others; Sunday Aug. 10 the great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, Grammy Award winning pianist Herbie Hancock, Argentine composer Guillermo Klein y Los Gauchos big band, trombonist Fred Wesley with Soul Live, and pianist George Wein — best known as the visionary behind the modern jazz festival — it may seem like an affordable day in the country, on which you’ve left the driving to them.

This is NOT a paid promotion, nor am I receiving a free trip to Newport (full disclosure: ten years ago I used to edit the JVC Jazz Festival program books). But for tickets and more information, visit or call (718) 230-3108 or (401) 847-1567. For a clip of what Newport was in 1958, here’s Anita O’Day as captured in the film Jazz on  Summer’s Day). I’m on the lookout for jazz and beyond occasions to recommend in the city itself, too, but  half a century later this fest can still be fun.
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  1. says

    So you’re not getting a free trip to Newport, but are you going?
    HM: Probably not — $200 isn’t exactly a cheap day for a jazz journalist without an assignment. But if I were to go, bus would be the way. The biggest problem with the day-trip idea is that it doesn’t seem to allow for overnight stay (and a room in Newport can easily cost $300 and upwards for one night that weekend). Of course if one had a place to crash there, or could camp out. . .
    My next planned music fest trip is to the 30th annual Chicago Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend, which Sonny Rollins is opening and Ornette Coleman closing. I’m writing an introduction to a book of photographs by my friends Lauren Deutsch, Marc PoKempner and Michael Jackson of the fest’s 30 years. More info on all that to come.

  2. Chris H says

    I’m lucky enough to be able to mooch a night off my buddy & his wife who rent a cottage in RI for the whole summer or I’d be seriously considering this bus. Haden-Iverson-Frisell is as good as it gets for me.