George Wein, Jazz Festival Trailblazer, Is Dead at 95

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George Wein, Jazz Festival Trailblazer, Is Dead at 95

George Wein, the impresario who practically single-handedly turned the jazz festival into a all over the world phenomenon, died on Monday at his condominium in Manhattan. He was 95.

His demise was declared by a spokeswoman, Carolyn McClair.

Jazz festivals ended up not an totally new idea when Mr. Wein (pronounced ween) was approached about presenting a weekend of jazz in the open air in Newport, R.I., in 1954. There had been sporadic attempts at these types of occasions, notably in equally Paris and Awesome in 1948. But there experienced been almost nothing as ambitious as the festival Mr. Wein staged that July on the grounds of the Newport On line casino, an athletic complicated in the vicinity of the historic mansions of Bellevue Avenue.

With a lineup which include Billie Vacation, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and other stars, the inaugural Newport Jazz Competition drew hundreds of having to pay prospects in excess of two times and captivated the attention of the news media. It scarcely broke even Mr. Wein later on recalled that it built a financial gain of $142.50, and that it finished up in the black only for the reason that he waived his $5,000 producer’s cost.

But it was thriving ample to advantage a return engagement, and right before extended the Newport pageant experienced set up alone as a jazz institution — and as a template for how to present audio in the open up air on a grand scale.

By the center 1960s, festivals experienced develop into as crucial as nightclubs and live performance halls on the itinerary of almost every single major jazz performer, and Mr. Wein experienced arrive to dominate the competition landscape.

He did not have the industry to himself: Big occasions like the Monterey Jazz Pageant in California, which commenced in 1958, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, which started in 1967, were the operate of other promoters. But for 50 percent a century, if there was a substantial jazz festival anywhere in the planet, there was a superior than even possibility it was a George Wein generation.

At the top of his achievement, Mr. Wein was generating situations in Warsaw, Paris, Seoul and in other places abroad, as perfectly as all in excess of the United States.

Newport remained his flagship, and it promptly grew to become recognized as a spot exactly where jazz record was made. Miles Davis was signed to Columbia Documents on the toughness of his encouraged taking part in at the 1955 festival. Duke Ellington’s career, which experienced been in decline, was reinvigorated a calendar year later on when his rousing effectiveness at Newport landed him on the cover of Time magazine. The 1958 festival was captured on film by the photographer Bert Stern in the documentary “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” one of the most celebrated jazz movies ever built.

Mr. Wein’s empire extended over and above jazz. It involved the Newport People Festival, which performed a essential purpose in the occupations of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and a lot of other performers. (It was at Newport that Mr. Dylan despatched shock waves by way of the people entire world by executing with an electrical band in 1965.) He also generated the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Competition, which showcased a wide assortment of vernacular new music as very well as the lifestyle and cuisine of New Orleans, and staged festivals devoted to blues, soul, state and even comedy.

His a person enterprise into the globe of rock was not a delighted encounter. Gate-crashers disrupted the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival, whose bill for the initially time incorporated rock bands, between them Led Zeppelin and Sly and the Family members Stone. The Newport city fathers issued a ban on these kinds of acts the subsequent summer months when both of those rock (the Allman Brothers) and the gate-crashers returned in 1971, Mr. Wein was not invited back. (The Newport Folks Competition, which had not been held in 1970 but was scheduled for later on in the summer time of 1971, was canceled.)

He was not discouraged. In 1972 he moved the Newport Jazz Pageant to New York Metropolis, where by it became a fewer bucolic but far more grandiose affair, with concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Middle, Radio Metropolis Songs Corridor and other places close to city. Underneath different names and company sponsors, the New York event ongoing to prosper for nearly 40 yrs. In addition, the jazz festival returned to Newport in 1981 and the folk festival in 1985, each as soon as once again beneath Mr. Wein’s auspices.

Mr. Wein’s achievement in presenting jazz and folk at Newport assisted pave the way for the phenomenon of Woodstock and the profusion of rock festivals in the late 1960s and early ’70s. But jazz was usually his initial appreciate.

He was a jazz musician in advance of he was a jazz entrepreneur. He commenced actively playing piano professionally as a teen and continued into his 80s, major small groups, ordinarily billed as the Newport All-Stars, at his festivals and somewhere else. (He executed in public for the initial time in various yrs at Newport in 2019. It was, he announced, “my past general performance as a jazz musician.”)

He was a very good participant, in the calm, melodic vein of the terrific swing pianist Teddy Wilson, with whom he briefly studied. But he established early on that taking part in jazz would be a precarious way for him to make a dwelling, and he turned much more concentrated on presenting it.

The achievement of Mr. Wein’s Boston nightclub, Storyville, named right after the pink-mild district of New Orleans wherever legend has it jazz was born, led Elaine Lorillard, a wealthy Newport resident, to solution him about developing what grew to become the initially Newport Jazz Competition, which she and her husband, Louis, financed. And the achievement of that festival decided the direction his vocation would acquire.

George Theodore Wein was born on Oct. 3, 1925, in Lynn, Mass., around Boston, and grew up in the nearby city of Newton. His father, Barnet, was a medical professional. His mom, Ruth, was an amateur pianist. Both equally his mom and dad, he recalled, cherished clearly show business and encouraged his fascination in songs, while they did not necessarily see it as a occupation possibility.

Mr. Wein took his to start with piano lessons at age 8 and found out jazz though in high school. By the time he entered Northeastern University in Boston, he was beginning to consider critically about a occupation in jazz.

He served in the Military from 1944 to 1946, paying out some time overseas but not seeing battle, and enrolled in Boston College immediately after being discharged. Right before graduating with a diploma in history in 1950, he was working steadily as a jazz pianist all over Boston.

In his autobiography, “Myself Among Others: A Everyday living in Music” (2003), created with Nate Chinen, he said that he understood by then that “music was a essential component of my becoming,” but that he also realized that he “had neither the self-assurance nor the wish to commit my everyday living to getting a professional jazz musician.” By the tumble of 1950 he was a full-time nightclub proprietor by the summer of 1954 he was a competition promoter.

Mr. Wein encountered some rough times in the early several years of the Newport Jazz Pageant. In 1960 the bassist Charles Mingus and the drummer Max Roach, protesting what they named Mr. Wein’s extremely professional booking policy, staged a smaller sized “rebel” festival in an additional portion of Newport in direct competition. But each situations have been overshadowed when throngs of drunken youths, unable to get tickets to Mr. Wein’s festival, descended on the town, throwing rocks and breaking keep home windows. Metropolis officers shut the Newport Jazz Competition down, while the Mingus-Roach party was authorized to go on.

As a end result of the rioting, Mr. Wein’s permit was revoked, and he did not return to Newport in 1961. A competition billed as Music at Newport, staged by a further promoter and that includes a selection of audio including some jazz, was offered in its place but was not prosperous. Mr. Wein was authorized back the upcoming year, and the pageant continued without the need of incident right up until the end of the ten years.

Coverage of Mr. Wein in the jazz press grew more negative above time, and the criticism would persist for the rest of his occupation. In 1959, the critic Nat Hentoff identified as the Newport Jazz Festival a “sideshow” that had “nothing to do with the long run of jazz.” (Mr. Hentoff afterwards altered his tune: In 2001 he wrote that Mr. Wein experienced “expanded the audience for jazz extra than any other promoter in the music’s record.”)

Mr. Wein was in some cases attacked as exploitive, cash-hungry, unimaginative in his programming and as well inclined to existing non-jazz artists at his jazz festivals — criticism 1st listened to when he booked Chuck Berry at Newport in 1958, and listened to again when he booked the likes of Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and even the folk team the Kingston Trio (who carried out at equally the folk and jazz festivals in 1959). He professed to just take the criticism in stride, but in his autobiography he still left no doubt that he had neglected none of it, quoting many of his worst notices and patiently describing why they were mistaken.

The two Newport festivals experienced been set up as nonprofit ventures, but in 1960 Mr. Wein shaped a company, Festival Productions, to run what soon became a around the globe empire. At the company’s top it was developing festivals and tours in some 50 metropolitan areas worldwide. More than the yrs he also tried his hand at individual administration and document creation.

Following yrs of, by his account, struggling to crack even, Mr. Wein grew to become a pioneer in corporate sponsorship in the late 1960s and ’70s, enlisting beer, tobacco and audio products providers to underwrite his festivals and tours. There was the Schlitz Salute to Jazz, the Kool Jazz Competition and, most enduringly, a partnership with the Japanese electronics big JVC, which started in 1984 and lasted until finally 2008.

“I under no circumstances realized that you could make income till sponsors arrived along,” he advised The New York Instances in 2004. “The credibility we’d been doing work on all these a long time usually brought media notice. And then the opportunity for media observe was picked up by sponsors.”

In 1959, Mr. Wein married Joyce Alexander, who labored together with him as a vice president of Competition Productions for 4 many years. She died in 2005. No rapid spouse and children users survive.

More than the many years Mr. Wein been given various honors and accolades. He was named a Countrywide Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2005 and inducted into the French Legion of Honor in 1991. He was honored by two presidents, Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Bill Clinton in 1993, at all-star White Residence jazz concerts celebrating the anniversary of the very first Newport Jazz Festival. In 2015, the Recording Academy gave him a Trustees Award for life span achievement.

In 2007, nine several years following a deal to promote 80 percent of Pageant Productions to Black Entertainment Tv fell via, the business was acquired by a freshly formed company, the Festival Network. Mr. Wein remained involved, but as an personnel — a variety of producer emeritus — and not the manager.

Matters adjusted once again in 2009, when the Competition Community ran into money problems and Mr. Wein regained manage of the handful of festivals still left in what experienced the moment been a vast empire. (At first he was legally prevented from using the names Newport Jazz Pageant and Newport Folk Competition because they belonged to the Pageant Network, but he reacquired the legal rights in 2010.)

He also discovered new sponsors for the Newport Jazz Competition — initial a health care tools company and later an asset administration firm, Natixis — to switch his longtime corporate lover, JVC. The folks competition, whose sponsors in modern a long time had bundled Ben & Jerry’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, had by then been without having sponsorship for many a long time both of those festivals have been afterwards partly sponsored by the jewelry company Alex and Ani.

In 2011 Mr. Wein introduced that equally Newport festivals, the only gatherings he was even now generating, would turn into aspect of a new nonprofit group, the Newport Festivals Basis.

He sooner or later handed around the reins of both of those festivals, though he remained concerned right up until the stop. Jay Sweet grew to become producer of the people competition in 2009 and six many years later was named govt producer of the Newport Festivals Basis. In 2016 Danny Melnick was promoted from associate producer to producer of the jazz festival, and the jazz bassist and bandleader Christian McBride, who had done at Newport many periods considering the fact that 1991, was named creative director.

The coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of equally festivals in 2020, but they were being again the upcoming 12 months. Mr. Wein had planned to show up at the 2021 jazz pageant, but on July 28, just two times just before it was scheduled to commence, he declared on social media that he would not be there. (He did take part remotely, introducing the singers Mavis Staples, by mobile phone, and Andra Working day, by using FaceTime.)

“At my age of 95, generating the excursion will be far too tough for me,” he wrote. “I am heartbroken to skip looking at all my buddies.” But, he additional, with a new staff in put to operate equally festivals, “I can see that my legacy is in excellent arms.”