Newport Jazz Festival
Richard Conde

The Best Seats for the Newport Jazz Festival

Charter yachts are available for this year's event that takes place August 3-5.

J

eremy king grew up in a New York home where, on any given night, the adults would play the records of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis or the Dave ­Brubeck Quartet. He knew the quintuple time of “Take Five” the way other kids know songs by the Muppets. When somebody said “Leap Frog,” he knew to tap his toes instead of jump. So, when the longtime sailor arrived in yachting’s best-known Rhode Island city about a decade ago, he couldn’t think of anything better than attending its annual Newport Jazz Festival. He went by land. He went by sea. He went back again and again, and he still wants more. “There’s multiple sides to the jazz fest,” says King, who is captain aboard the 115-foot classic schooner Eros. “Part of it is a land event: People have tickets and they’re going for the music-festival experience. Then for some people, it’s just a great weekend to be in ­Newport. It’s just so lively. There’s probably 30,000 more people in town, and the restaurants and stores and parks, there’s just a lot going on. And then the third aspect of it is the boating. To boaters, we get this awesome vantage point. There’s very, very few music festivals that you can sit on your boat and have as good a view as the people standing in front of the stage.”

This year’s dates: Friday, August 3 through Sunday, August 5.    Ticket prices: A three-day land pass is $170. Listening from the yacht is free.    Who’s playing: Charles Lloyd and friends featuring ­Lucinda Williams, Jason Moran, Marvin Sewell, Stuart Mathis, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland and more.    The setup: It’s at Fort Adams State Park, overlooking Newport Harbor.   Interesting add-on: Guided tours of the fortress include going to the top of the fort’s walls and into the underground tunnels.

Eros, which charters through Nicholson Yachts, is still open for the event this ­August — and King hopes a client will book, because he knows all the tricks for anchoring off the peninsula at Fort Adams State Park.

“The shape just creates this natural amphitheater,” he says. “The way they set up the stage, the sound reverberates out onto the water. The few times I’ve gone in and been at the festival on land, it’s not nearly as great an experience as being on the water. Assuming you’re downwind, the sound is incredible.”

Maneuvering a charter yacht into that perfect spot takes some been-there-before know-how, he adds.

“It’s competitive,” he says. “Some years, I’ve gotten up and gone out there at 7 in the morning and waited to get closer. The bigger the boat, the farther away you get, but with a boat like Eros, we can see right up and over all the small boats. You’re not standing in line for an hour to get a beer. You’re not fighting the crowd if you’re 5-foot-nothing just to see the stage. A really fun thing we can do is send somebody up the rig a little bit in the bosun’s chair and watch from above deck.”

Newport Jazz Festival
Musicians at the Newport Jazz Festival often look for ways to add new improvisations to songs, making the listening experience unique.Richard Conde

The other great part of the Newport Jazz Festival, he says, is the boating culture that surrounds it. While other premier charter events such as the America’s Cup and the Monaco Grand Prix tend to draw the biggest of the big superyachts, the Newport festival draws a blend that might best be described as a pseudo raft-up of mixed nuts.

Newport Jazz Festival
It’s hard to tell what performers love more: the crowds or the waterfront breezes.Richard Conde

“What happens on the water is you get all kinds of things,” King says. “There’s people rowing up on kayaks — one year it looked like there was a picnic table with outboard engines attached. The music is only part of the experience when you’re chartering a yacht. The music is great background the entire day, but we have our paddleboards and kayaks and an inflatable lily pad, so you get to enjoy being on the water all day if that’s what you want to do. It’s like a music festival on land, but it’s the boating people who are the characters all around you.”

Newport Jazz Festival
All that Jazz: Today's musicians who scat and blow and sing and riff and improvise until their fingers bleed at the Newport Jazz Festival are part of a legacy that dates to 1954. Some of the musical genre's greatest legends — including Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Etta James and Herbie Hancock — set the standard for the level of talent that festival attendees expect to see on stage today. When the Duke Ellington Orchestra played "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the festival in 1955, the saxophone solo had no less than 27 choruses.Richard Conde

A charter for this year’s festival can include only the three-day event, or can be woven into a week or longer itinerary all around New England. In his adopted hometown of Newport, King knows where to send guests for shoreside fun, and he’s equally excited to sail out to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket or legendary designer Nathanael Herreshoff’s old stomping grounds in Bristol to show off what Eros can do.

“Generally, we find that the experience of sailing is the biggest attraction itself,” he says. “We try and share that with our guests and have a good time along the way.”