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The sunshine of guitarist Cory Wong

Cory Wong at 2021 Newport Jazz Festival
Adam Kissick
Newport Jazz
Cory Wong at 2021 Newport Jazz Festival

Cory Wong is a lot of things: "There's the guitar nerds, there's the jazz nerds, there's the funk nerds. And I am one of those in all of those" says Wong, who can also add songwriter, first-call musical collaborator and talk show host to his resume. That breadth of experience can be felt and heard in every moment Cory lays his six strings on — especially his joyous musical output as a bandleader.

We caught up with Cory and his aptly named backing band, the Wongnotes, on the main stage of the 2021Newport Jazz Festival to capture a show as sunny as the summer weather. The Minnesota native took us through an eclectic set list of numbers speaking to his tastes and past — sparked by a moment seeing the group Béla Fleck and the Flecktones in his youth. "I needed to see that to. .. give me permission to do what I do," says Wong. "Jazz meets funk meets R&B meets pop, meets all these other things... These cats are making it happen. I can find my unique voice on the instrument and really give it a go."


Cory Wong, guitar; Sam Greenfield, alto saxophone; Kenni Holmen, tenor saxophone; Sly5th Ave, baritone saxophone; Jay Webb, trumpet; Jon Lampley, trumpet; Michael Nelson, trombone; Kevin Gastonguay, keyboards; Sonny Thompson, bass; Petar Janjic, drums; Nêgah Santos, percussion

Set List:

(All music by Cory Wong)

  • Lunchtime
  • Gumshü
  • Meditation 
  • Welcome to Minneapolils
  • St. Paul
  • Jet Screamer
  • Click Bait
  • Cosmic Sans
  • Credits: Writers and Producers: Trevor Smith and Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Vice President of Visuals and Strategy at NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

    Live music recording and mixing: Steve Remote, Aura-Sonic Limited for Newport Festivals Foundation LLC; Location audio engineers: Graham Tobias, Steve Kolakowsky; Recorded media wrangler: Ken McGee; Additional field producing: Sarah Geledi

    Special thanks to Newport Festivals Archivist Billy Glassner, the Newport Festivals Foundation, Dan Rucinski and Jake Hartsfield

    Copyright 2022 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Corrected: May 31, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
    The trumpet player during this Newport concert was Jay Webb, who was originally misidentified in this post as Steve Strand.
    Trevor joined the WBGO Development Department in April of 2017 and currently handles grant writing and institutional giving initiatives as the Coordinator of Corporate and Foundation Relations.