NEW YORK (AP) _ The JVC Jazz Festival, formerly known as the Newport and the Kool jazz festival, opens Friday with fewer concerts than in the past but more ''big name'' artists.

Ella Fitzgerald launches the nine-day music event with a concert at Avery Fisher Hall. About the same time, Barry Harris will give a solo piano recital at Town Hall and the Count Basie Band will sail from Pier 81 on a Hudson River cruise boat.

There are fewer concerts this year than in the festival's past 15 years in New York because Carnegie Hall is closed for renovations, leaving only Town Hall and Avery Fisher for events.

The 10th annual Jazz Legends on Film evening has been re-arranged by David Chertok to include some television footage shot, but never before broadcast, of Benny Goodman.

Goodman, who died Friday, will be honored later this summer in a concert put together by festival impresario George Wein.

The JVC festival, known as the Newport Jazz Festival when it moved to New York from Newport, R.I., and as the Kool Jazz Festival for the last five years, has a new sponsor, the Japanese Victor Co., maker of audio and video products.

There will be tributes to several jazz luminaries, including Wild Bill Davison, the cornet player who was 80 in January; the Rev. John G. Gensel of St. Peter's Church, who is minister to the jazz community; saxophonists Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney; the late Nat King Cole; and Jelly Roll Morton.

Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine share Tuesday evening, Mel Torme and George Shearing share Thursday and B.B. King and Andrae Crouch present blues and gospel Friday, all at Avery Fisher Hall.

From a younger generation, Spyro Gyra will headline a show on Saturday, June 21. OTB, a band of recent college graduates who play bebop, performs Sunday with Herbie Hancock.

The Ganelin Trio, a jazz group from the Soviet Union, will play with Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy on Saturday. Chico Hamilton and the Young Altos will be heard Tuesday at St. Peter's Church.

The first Saturday and Sunday, as usual, will have jazz performances at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, N.J. The last Saturday and Sunday, as usual, will have festival musicians in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.