Newport Jazz Festival 2021 Roars Back in a big (but also small) way
United States – There are few festivals in the world of jazz that have maintained such a fine balance of honoring the heritage of classical jazz while pushing forward with the latest lists of innovative and genre-appropriate artists, just like the Newport Jazz Festival. Founded in 1954, Newport Jazz has hosted a number of groundbreaking performances by legendary jazz artists such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday as well as rock groups such as The Allman Brothers Band, The Jeff Beck Group, Frank Zappa and a Led Zeppelin show in 1969 that nearly caused a riot. Definitely not your average jazz festival.
After a pandemic break in the annual event last year, Newport Jazz is back in full force for 2021 with enthusiastic and engaged fans filling Fort Adams State Park to a carefully managed 50% capacity. Music fans were required to provide proof of vaccination (or negative test results within the previous three days), the number of steps was reduced compared to previous years and masks were required in closed areas for added security .
Seemingly true to the theme of adaptation and finding the right balance, the facades and monitors also looked decidedly different from 2021 to 2019. While the biggest names in jazz and new music graced the stage, some of the The smallest and lightest consoles on the market were now a common sight. For example, the Allen & Heath dLive CTi1500 and its stable mate dLive C1500 were used by a wide range of Newport Jazz headliners, including R&B superstar singer and actress Andra Day, psychedelic dub rock trio Khruangbin and the funk guitar phenomenon Cory Wong. .
Grammy-nominated guitarist and producer Cory Wong has decided to go ultralight with the CTi1500 (25.4 lb) paired with a MixRack DM48. Equipped with a Waves 3 card for enhanced virtual soundcheck functionality and a superMADI card for key broadcast sends, the small CTi1500 rig also handled the mixing of 15 MSI wedges and various communication / production functions as needed. : a festival power package, small enough and light enough to be checked in as baggage.
In order to achieve this feat, the Allen & Heath R&D team set to work to remove as much weight as possible, while maintaining professional-grade structural integrity and an uncompromising user experience. Designed with titanium side panels, new alloy hardware and a refreshed chassis design, the CTi1500 allows full access to any dLive MixRack via 12 faders (with six layers) with integrated audio I / O, a 128-channel 96kHz audio network port, a 12-inch capacitive touchscreen, a range of rotary controls and 19 assignable soft keys.
“When I was building our touring platform, I was looking for a modular system powerful enough to handle facades and monitors with enough processing options on board to eliminate the need for external processing,” says Jake Hartsfield, FOH engineer at Cory Wong. “DLive is the perfect solution for our needs. On tour, I mix FOH and monitors on the same engine, with the channels split between 1-56 for FOH and 57-112 for monitors. Then I have the last 16 channels open for utility purposes. 128 channels are more than sufficient to handle most bands in this configuration. Our entire touring platform (which includes 20 wireless channels) fits into two Pelicans and two 12-slot racks. Foolish.”
Hartsfield continues, “To Newport, we brought the CTi1500, which is the lightest and smallest member of the dLive family. I thought the C1500 was tiny, but the CTi is still 14 pounds lighter, making it an ideal date-of-flight solution. What really makes Allen & Heath’s modular ecosystem shine is the ability to use the same show file on any console in the dLive family. The engine is the same in all models. It doesn’t matter which surface is connected. It is reassuring to know that there is no tricky file conversion when changing surfaces. With other consoles, you lose data when converting your file from one console to another, sometimes you lose entire banks of channels and have to use workarounds to get them back. With dLive, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s hard to take someone’s opinion at face value when they say “this console sounds great”. I’m also a studio mixer, and recently remixed a live recorded on the dLive. Normally I can beat my board mix with a few simple tweaks, but I have to say I actually had a hard time beating my own board mix from the show. It reinforces me how good this console sounds.
Taking the grooves within a few BPMs of Cory Wong’s hyper-funk setting, Khruangbin (pronounced KRUNG-bin) also brought his laid-back, otherworldly musical styles to the Fort Adams crowd via compact live rigs. Opting for the C1500 over monitors, Khruangbin also used a MixRack CDM32, a gigaACE card for front digital separation, a Waves 3 card and Waves Impact Server for additional external effects, and Shure PSM1000 IEMs.
Using Allen & Heath’s gigaACE protocol for interconnection, a CTi1500 platform was used at the other end of the digital snake at FOH. Just like with Cory Wong, the popular Waves 3 board for the virtual soundcheck and the superMADI for the broadcast board combination were loaded into their (DM0) MixRack, this time joined by an additional gigaACE board and two DX168 16 XLR / inputs. 8 XLR outputs 96 kHz Portable DX Extenders.
“My CTi1500 made its outdoor concert debut at the Newport Jazz Festival,” noted Jade Payne, engineer at Khruangbin FOH. “In typical festival fashion, there was no room in the program for a soundcheck. It gave me a lot of time to do a virtual soundcheck through my IEMs at FOH, make minor adjustments for the set list, preparations for the final mix, etc. located on a peninsula with high winds, which I feared would affect the PA’s response. But MSI did a great job with deploying their system and dLive’s loyalty rang out for a successful show.
“The only real problem I’ve encountered with the CTi,” Payne continues with a chuckle, “is that the machinists often think the case is empty and they try to hit it before I take the console out. . “
Khruangbin Monitor Engineer Jorge Pardo-Denning stepped in: “Newport, one of the first festivals to come back live from the pandemic, it was really cool to work. We had rehearsals before we got ready and we wear our own consoles because it helps a lot, especially by doing virtual soundchecks. It was a success and a big “welcome back” to the shows again! ”
Featured for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in the 2021 biopic “United States vs. Billie Holiday”, Golden Globe winner Andra Day for Best Actress, closed the final day of the festival with a number of moving renditions of “Lady Day” jazz classics. His set was mixed by frontage engineer Caleb Morris via a CTi1500 and DM0 MixRack combo, wrapping up the finale of one of the world’s biggest jazz festivals on a console that’s lighter than just powering the analogue consoles from a generation ago.
“It was such a great atmosphere in Newport this year,” notes Mike Bangs, live sound and touring director for Allen & Heath USA. “I had the pleasure of working with other engineers and a few trends started to emerge. First of all, a lot of engineers are a little reluctant to do their concerts with “only” 12 faders. But the floodgates for the C1500 and CTi1500 have opened recently as people start to return to touring and travel budgets and the options are even more limited. Some engineers find that they prefer the targeted form factor and number of faders. Creative design of groups and spill layers is important with a high number of channels, but with a ton of softkeys and recallable workflow changes per scene, I have run over 80 channels on a CTi and the navigation was a breeze.
Bangs adds, “The second recurring theme was kind of ‘cake and eat it too’ about the tiny footprint of the console. There are other ways to create a mishmash of small areas, laptops, and consumer gear to create what looks like a mixing console. You can reap the “compact and lightweight” benefits by going this route, of course. But you have to sacrifice handling and the peace of mind that the platform was built for the rigors of the road. People are thrilled that CTi has this cool combination of compact and rugged, without sacrificing anything along the way. Small is the new big thing.
In picture: FOH Engineer Jade Payne and Monitor Engineer Jorge Pardo-Denning.