PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Natalie Cole kicks off the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival on Friday as the venerable musical event continues to showcase veteran artists and young performers.

Cole, the daughter of Nat King Cole, will take the stage at the International Tennis Hall of Fame for the festival’s first performances before it moves to historic Fort Adams on Narragansett Bay on Saturday and Sunday. Cole’s uncle, pianist and vocalist Freddy Cole, and the Bill Charlap Trio are also on Friday’s lineup. Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are set to play later in the weekend, along with dozens of other jazz musicians from around the world.

“Each day is like three separate festivals,” said jazz impresario George Wein, who organized the first jazz festival in 1954 at the behest of a local Newport socialite. At 87, Wein continues to produce the festival, scouring jazz clubs for the best new talent. “Half our programming is less well known artists. That’s very important to me.”

Cole comes to Newport riding the success of her latest album, “Natalie Cole En Espanol,” her first studio album in five years and the first she’s ever recorded in Spanish.

“There were times when I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?'” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “But something about this language is so beautiful to sing in. It was just magical.”

One artist playing her first gig at Newport is Dee Alexander, a vocalist and songwriter from Chicago. She has performed in Milan, Paris and Poland but said there’s something special about readying for Newport, which has hosted jazz superstars like Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.

While she’s delighted to be on the lineup, she said she is also looking forward to being a fan.

“I’m excited to check out the other artists,” she said. “I want to see what other people are doing.”


David Klepper

Associated Press