A New Port Of Call

1954

Lately we’ve been talking about the year 1954 as an arbitrary starting point for the Ivy heyday. Both LIFE Magazine and Playboy ran big stories on the look that year, and Miles Davis is believed to have first donned Ivy duds about that time, serving as an example of the many guys who would become hip to the look as a smart and modern way of dressing.

Something else happened in 1954: the Newport Jazz Festival was founded. And in 2013, I went for the first time. It was at the invitation of a gracious “old” friend. In fact, he’s so well seasoned, he’s been going to the festival ever since it was founded.

My all-to-brief Newport getaway began with a scenic (for me, at least) drive by car. I pulled over for a pit stop in the Connecticut town of Mystic, the setting for the movie “Mystic Pizza,” which we’ve featured on the site before. You should be getting a Muffy Aldrich vibe right about now:

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With the sprawling bridge and boat-filled harbor, Newport makes a spectacular impression upon arrival. (It was certainly more pleasant than the arrival into New York City on the return trip). I spent the afternoon exploring the town, which is clogged with tourists and rich in history.

I visited The Breakers, summer home of the Vanderbilt clan. If this were my back yard, I’d turn it into a pitch and putt:

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The Vanderbilts were very close with Paul Helleu, my favorite artist. He did drypoints of multiple family members, and they later commissioned him to create the constellation design on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal. This portrait hung in one of the girls’ bedrooms:

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The International Tennis Hall Of Fame is located in Newport and had me itching to play on grass:

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On the way back from the National Museum of American Illustration (whose founders were featured in my JC Leyendecker story for Ralph Lauren Magazine), I made a wrong turn (which happened pretty much every other turn) and looked up to find a beach. I’d associated Newport with sailboats and old mansions, and had only brought my trunks on the offchance my hosts had a pool. It hadn’t occurred to me to go swimming in the ocean. Then I caught sight of some surfers, and felt the kind of excitement a kid feels at his first sight of Disneyland.

So the next morning I went about making my own contribution to this summer’s surf-Ivy microtrend. I hadn’t been in the ocean for over five years, and I can’t understate the feeling of rejuvination it gave me. I always knew I loved the ocean (being in it, that is, not on it), and now I realize I’m going to have to start planning my life around regular plunges.

I got a rental surfboard that was big and slow but I caught the first wave I went for, proving that skills may get rusty, but once you’ve acquired them you’ve got them for life. I had one exhilerating ride where I was really locked in the curl. The wave was about two feet tall, of course, but it gave me a ten-foot stoke.

Regular readers will by now have noticed that I can safely lay claim to being the most unphotogenic style writer in the history of style writing — perhaps even in the history of photography. This one’s pretty epic, not to mention terrifying: I had no idea my hair was so thin.

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When the rest of me was as pink as my face, I headed back to shower and change.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the Newport Jazz Festival for me was Roy Haynes. Not only did he play classic bop (the avant-garde stuff, as expected, could get a little noisy), but it was great to see the man I was lucky to have interviewed for the Ivy League Jazz story that gave birth to this website. Haynes, a drummer, is an unbelievable 88 years old! He certainly didn’t miss a beat (though his solo had patches that came across as senile incoherence), and the young musicians he surrounded himself with in his “Fountain Of Youth” band were just razor-sharp.

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My gracious host dug it too:

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There wasn’t much in the way of style on display. Many of the musicians were dressed as come-as-you-are as the audience. That certainly wasn’t the case in 1958 with Anita O’Day, a closeup of whose hat provided the clue in the previous post. Here she is from the Newport Jazz Festival documentary “Jazz On A Summer’s Day:”

 Now I know some of you don’t dig jazz. But really, why not consider expanding your horizons? — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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26 Comments on "A New Port Of Call"

  1. Thanks for the Leyendecker article link. A giant ignored in an age of pygmies.

  2. Nick Willard | August 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

    Where was your visit to the RISD Museum exhibition Artist/Rebel?Dandy?

  3. Didn’t have time to get to Providence and they should have flown me there on a private jet anyway.

  4. fred astaire | August 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm |

    Newport is just glorious.

  5. Newport’s a great place to visit. Especially in the off season.

  6. Good to hear you got out of the city. In the midwest, we call that a “farmer’s tan”, what is it called in NYC? 😉

  7. Newport Jazz with Charlie, What an experience. Those are some memories to cherish.

  8. Dutch Uncle | August 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm |

    Christian,

    Is that a faded navy polo, or a navy heather polo?

    Loved the close-ups of Anita O’Day’s audience, but really couldn’t understand how carried away they got by her “distorted” renditions. I guess I’ll have to live another 70 years before I learn to appreciate jazz. Sorry.

  9. That’s a heathered polo.

    And while that O’Day performance is very famous and extremely original, I agree that it’s not the most pleasant listening. Check out her recording of “From This Moment On,” and I think the odds of appreciation will rise considerably.

  10. Yes, jazz is an American art form, yadda yadda yadda.

    Some of us just don’t care for it, regardless of its Ivy credentials. Some of us don’t care for patch clothes, or GTH, or plain toe bluchers, or any number of other things associated with Ivy, either but we still like other aspects of Ivy style, and even this blog!

    For the past year or so, I’ve been listening to a lot of opera, with a smidgen of other things, like Herb Alpert, Fred Astaire, Beach Boys, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and the like. Then one day, my wife put on some Queen. All of a sudden, I came to understand what our elders were talking about when they called rock and/or roll music “noise.” Although once a Queen fan, I found it cacophonous.

    Nowadays, I find a lot of jazz even less listenable than Queen.

    I’ll take Beverly Sills over Anita O’Day any time.

  11. Southern Loafer | August 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm |

    To me, Miles Davis and John Coltrane performing “So What?” is quite possibly the greatest ten minutes of music ever created.

  12. Glad it worked out! Did you catch a tennis game?

  13. Orgastic future | August 7, 2013 at 3:45 am |

    Good stuff! And it’s always euphoric no matter the size of the wave! I still can’t get into jazz; I’m more of an “indie rock” kind of a guy, but the again, I’m much younger than the average commenter lol.

  14. Roy Haynes is amazing. Saw him in 2006 backing Alice Coltrane at an SFJazz presentation at the Masonic Center (along with her son Ravi and Charlie Haden)… even at his advanced age he still nearly blew the rooftop off.

    Glad you enjoyed the Newport Jazz Festival. I’ve never had the good fortune to attend, but I went to the Newport Folk Festival a few years ago and remember the site as being simply beautiful.

  15. And on the subject of Anita O’Day, btw, for those who expressed some reservations… she had serious heroin addiction problems at the time, so that wasn’t exactly her best work, as Christian pointed out. Better to locate some pre-1950s work, like her big band sides.

  16. @Henry

    To be more specific, it’s an African-American art form, which may partly account for why you don’t care for it. Beverly Sills is certainly a legend, but I hope you’re listening to some Jessye Norman and Leontyne Price as well.

    @DCG

    Just the club members I photographed.

    @caravan

    Yes on O’Day’s early work. I’ve always enjoyed “Just A Little Bit South Of North Carolina.” Pretty tune.

  17. Terrific post – reminded me that I need to get back to Newport ASAP….

  18. You just made me miss New England even more! I always visit Newport and Mystic when I’m back east. I love the Newport Cliffwalk, walking around Newport. I enjoyed my visit to the Tennis Hall of Fame as well. I’m planning a museum trip next year. The USGA Golf House in New Jersey, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and then the JFK Presidential Library in Boston. Of course I will take in a ballgame or two!

  19. CC,

    I think jazz ceased to be a specifically black art form ages ago. I listen to a variety of operatic singers, but I feel no need to listen to a specific artist because—or in spite—of his race. I care about the voice and the music.

  20. I vacationed in New London, Conn back in 1978 with my cousin. We visited Mystic Seaport, New Haven and Yale, the Coast Guard Academy, and took the train into NY City one day. A nice trip, so many sights to see.

    Being naïve, I drove to the sub base, not realizing it was off limits to civilians. Most military bases at that time were wide open to civilian traffic. I was politely told to leave, which I did immediately.

    I got the sunburn of my life on that trip. We went on a round trip ferry ride to Orient Point and back. There was a remains of an old hotel or mansion there. I doubt there was a place to eat there in 1978, cause I recall being very hungry when we got off the ferry.

    We even got to tour a Coast Guard cutter. We just walked aboard and were treated like royalty by the officer (OD) in charge.

    Those were the days. What with the state of the world today, we probably would be detained for questioning.

  21. What are the gang at Bailey’s Beach wearing?

  22. P.S. to CC: Do you have something against Grace Bumbry? 😉

  23. Who?

  24. She’s a black mezzo-soprano. Her Carmen is a joy to listen to. Carmen is often played saucy, which is fine, but that can grow old. Her Carmen has the necessary earthiness and passion, but not the extra sauce that some sopranos put into her.

  25. This is too cool! Going to the Newport Jazz Festival has been on my bucket list ever since my first viewing of High Society. (Bing Crosby wears fabulous shoes–you should Netflix if you’ve never seen it.)

  26. This is too cool! Going to the Newport Jazz Festival has been on my bucket list ever since my first viewing of High Society. (Bing Crosby wears fabulous shoes–you should Netflix if you’ve never seen it.)

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