“Miles Davis wasn’t even listed in the program book when he appeared for the first time at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, but he made his presence felt with a career-reviving performance.
This year’s program book is Miles-centric as the festival, which began Friday, July 24, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the late jazz legend’s historic Newport debut.
Newport festival founder George Wein recalls that weeks before the 1955 festival, he ran into Davis at a New York jazz club. Wein had created the first-ever outdoor jazz festival in the Rhode Island seaside resort the year before, and Davis asked if he was going to do it again.
“I said yes, and Miles said, ‘You can’t have a festival without me,’ and he kept repeating that,” said Wein, who at 89 is still producing the festival.
But Davis, who had just kicked a heroin habit, didn’t have his own band. Wein arranged to add him to an all-star jam session that also included pianist Thelonious Monk and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.
“Miles was the hit of the festival,” Wein said. “He put his trumpet right into the microphone and it came through loud and clear on `Round Midnight.'”“