NEWPORT, R.I. -- A crowd of 7,100 music fans ignored overcast skies Sunday and turned out for the finale of the 1985 Newport Jazz Festival, where fusion groups outnumbered jazz veterans and rising stars.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Texas roadhouse rockabilly bluesman who brought the two-day event to a close, had the crowd on its feet even before he took the stage in a white fur-tailed cowboy hat.
He helped draw the kind of younger crowd producer George Wein was hoping for in an event that strayed from the classic jazz emphasis it has held since its return to the birthplace of jazz festivals in 1981.
But there was something for everyone, mainstream jazz included, in a program that also featured young saxophonist David Murray's inventive octet; hot trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a household jazz name at the tender age of 23; the fusion pairing of guitarist Lee Ritenour and pianist-composer Dave Grusin; and powerhouse piano player McCoy Tyner's quartet, featuring alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe, bassist Avery Sharpe and drummer Louis Hayes.
Marsalis' quartet was sandwiched between the Latin-tinged sound of the Ritenour-Grusin set, where the composer blended in a few easily recognizable pieces including his TV 'Theme from St. Elsewhere,' and Vaughan, who brought the event to a rollicking close.
'Some are not even from the same tradition, but I'm not going to put one above the other,' Marsalis said. 'I'm not cutting fusion down at all. All music is cool. There is different music for different people.'
Marsalis, who won Grammy awards for best album in both jazz and classical categories for the past two years, played a mix of ballads and hard-driving numbers including 'St. James Infirmary,' 'Lazy Afternoon,' and 'Later' for a spellbound crowd.
The setting at Fort Adams State Park, on a peninsula jutting into scenic Newport harbor, was a far cry from the heyday of the old Newport Jazz Festival at Festival Field across town, where the event was held until 1971 when rowdies crashed a fence and sent the event packing to New York for 10 years.
Several hundred boats -- from a cruise ship to sleek yachts, dinghies and even canoes -- were anchored close by so their occupants could enjoy the music and add to the ambience. Windsurfers slalomed through the fleet.
The same was true on Saturday, when singer Sarah Vaughan wowed the crowd with her extraordinary vocal range.
Wein said he has been forced to use younger and more diverse groups in all of his festivals because the number of true jazz greats is shrinking.
'Sarah is the last of her era, and Ella Fitzgerald is sick. Count Basie died last year and where are the people to replace them? It just shows you how fragile this business of jazz is,' Wein said.
'We wanted to make this a contemporary event. It is difficult to make a festival successful without bringing in fusion groups,' Wein said. 'Maybe we can open up people's ears to different kinds of music.'
Vaughan, who appeared at the very first event in 1954, shared the billing with John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra, the fusion group Spyro Gyra, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and a group of top jazz veterans assembled for the first time as an all-star group.
The Public Broadcasting System taped portions of the two-day, 13-hour event for broadcast Nov. 5 in a one-hour program to be called 'Newport Jazz '85.'
The festival sponsor, JVC Corporation of America, is underwriting the TV special as it did with last year's initial PBS venture, 'Jazz Comes Home to Newport.'