SETTING OFF SPARKS Esperanza Spalding.
FRIDAY:: Frank Sinatra may be associated with Hoboken and Vegas, but on his famed Come Fly With Me, he offered his audience the most cosmopolitan of travelogues. It was packed with songs that mentioned Hawaii, Chicago, Capri — Vermont even made the cut. To kick off the 2011 edition of the NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL, MICHAEL FEINSTEIN harks to the Voice's classic 1958 date, essaying a handful of Tin Pan Alley chestnuts in his own bravura-flecked style. Rather than a full orchestra, Feinstein the pianist will lead a small combo that should wrap his vocals with nuanced gestures that accentuate each song's particulars. Sharing the bill is a man by the name of WYNTON MARSALIS. You must know that the trumpeter's horn is one of jazz's wonders — rich, seductive and bubbling over with the blues. I was driving the other night and his quintet's "A Train, A Banjo, and A Chicken Wing" leapt out of a mix tape — I was floored by the poise that they generated while messing around with trad blues structures. Each member of his ensemble is a killer soloist. If any small band can fill a large stage, it's Wynton's crew. Hear for yourself at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, 194 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, at 8 pm | $88 | 800.745.3000 | newportjazzfest.net
SATURDAY:: I went to see STEVE COLEMAN & FIVE ELEMENTS a few weeks ago and, as usual, the revered alto saxophonist demonstrated just how far precision can take a jazz band, which is pretty damn far. There's math in Coleman's ever-evolving music; several tunes on the new The Mancy of Sound (Pi Recordings) have the kind of counterpoint action that makes you think a slide rule was involved in the composing process. But because the leader views most everything through a rhythmic lens, the action of the bass, drums, piano, guitar, and vocals takes on a hyper-percolation. Drummer Marcus Gilmore, one of the most fascinating percussionists at work these days, has a deep connection with Coleman's jagged riffs. The sparks are definitely going to fly when they hit the Harbor Stage at Fort Adams State Park on the first full day of the NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL. It's another well-curated program this year, with an array of perspectives being offered. The first band you need to put on today's must-see list MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING. The New York quartet is a wiseacre outfit with a deep blend of concept and chops. Their rambunctious freebop is built on a manic sprit that is proud of its entertainment skills. The Coimbra Concert (Clean Feed), which captures them at their high-flying best, conjures the eruptions of Mingus, the humor of Raymond Scott, and the boisterous beauty of the Art Ensemble, ably placing them in a deeply creative continu-um. Ambrose Akinmusire is another young phenom to catch. When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note) is a serious date that stresses interplay over all else. The trumpet has a wide-angle world view, with influences stretching from Chopin to Flying Lotus, and his ballads implode with poignancy while his rave-ups put passion at the center of their squall. No wonder WYNTON MARSALIS was part of the applauding audience when Akinmusire premiered his disc in New York this spring. Speaking of the trumpet titan, he'll bring his terrific quintet to the Fort's stage. They are, in a word, killing — agile, inspired, refined, and rambunctious. Speaking of kicking up some dust, RANDY WESTON's piano can also be placed in that category. The lanky pianist makes judiciousness seem like the most valuable element of performance, which gives his shows a deep focus, but doesn't mean everything is measured. When Weston strikes that keyboard, he means it — trills turn as many heads as rumbles. His African Rhythms Trio has a regal air, generating trance qualities that boast a bit of majesty. REGINA CARTER'S REVERSE THREAD ensemble also harks to African sources, using folk music pulses in an enticing way, with the mesh of accordion, bass, guitar, and the leader's virtuosic violin uniting in a sonic swirl. And ESPERANZA SPALDING's duet gig with various artists should set off sparks. Be prepared to roam the grounds — there's an overload of great options from 11 am to 7 pm | $93-$69 | newportjazzfest.net