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A Millennial Incursion At Newport

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A Millennial Incursion At Newport

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A Millennial Incursion At Newport

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The 57th Newport Jazz Festival concludes tonight with a performance by 25-year-old New Orleans native Trombone Shorty. About a third of the artists featured at this year's festival are around age 30 or younger.

Lara Pellegrinelli sent this snapshot of Newport's newest generation of jazz lovers.

LARA PELLEGRINELLI: The New Black Eagle Jazz Band is about as traditional as they come. The musicians have been playing together for 40 years.



PELLEGRINELLI: And they opened this year's Newport Jazz Festival with rousing, old-time New Orleans music, a style that dates back to the teens and the 1920s.

At the same moment, a mere 300 feet away on another stage at Fort Adams, is a band of 30-somethings on the opposite end of the musical spectrum. It's called Mostly Other People Do the Killing.


PELLEGRINELLI: The musicians take their musical cues from pop, rock, experimental music and punk, although their dark suits and sunglasses suggest ironic New Wave. Their wild, brash humor makes you think they might be thumbing their noses at traditional jazz.

MOPPA ELLIOTT: No, not even a little bit.

PELLEGRINELLI: Bassist Moppa Elliott was greeting his parents, jazz-loving parents who brought him to the Newport Festival starting when he was too young to even remember.

ELLIOTT: Yeah, these are my folks...

PELLEGRINELLI: He and trumpeter Peter Evans figured out that they'd both heard Miles Davis at the same Newport fest back when they were in elementary school. Even though Elliott was a child of the '80s, he was brought up on a different soundtrack: classic jazz albums of the 1950s on labels like Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse.

ELLIOTT: And so I kind of grew up surrounded by this kind of music and it's just, you know, the core of what I hear in my head when I hear things that aren't voices.


PELLEGRINELLI: You might be tempted to label music like Elliott's crossover. The term was invented by marketing executives in the early 1990s, who equated self-conscious genre-bending with chart-crossing hits, if they were lucky. Today, musicians seem more interested in transforming traditional styles to reach audiences of their peers.

Newport's artistic co-director, Jason Olaine, says that's what he's seen.

JASON OLAINE: Musicians are - their nature is to create and interpret music as they see it, in what makes sense to them, in a personal way. And growing up in the world of back-beat is probably going to have some influence, versus growing up in the world of swinging jazz from the '50s and '60s.

PELLEGRINELLI: There are no headliners at this year's Newport Festival, no interloping pop or R artists. There were huge crowds for Esperanza Spalding, the bassist and singer who won this year's Grammy for Best New Artist. She tours with veteran saxophonist Joe Lovano and veteran rocker Prince.

Trombone Shorty, another musician who brings different contemporary influences to jazz, actually got audiences up off their feet and dancing in their clam diggers during his set Saturday afternoon.


TROMBONE SHORTY: (Performance)

PELLEGRINELLI: There may be some naysayers, but the New Black Eagle Jazz Band's clarinetist, Billy Novick, has nothing but praise for the younger generation.

BILLY NOVICK: Love it. Some of the people who play this music are stodgy about it and very - kind of judgmental about other kinds of music. We're not that way.

PELLEGRINELLI: And neither, it would seem, are most of the people in the lawn chairs of Newport.

For NPR News, I'm Lara Pellegrinelli in Newport, Rhode Island.

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