September 28, 2022

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George Wein, Newport Jazz Pageant co-founder, dies at 95

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NEW YORK (AP) — George Wein, an impresario of 20th century music who aided found the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals and set the template for gatherings just about everywhere from Woodstock to the south of France, died Monday.

Wein, 95, died “peacefully in his sleep” in his New York Metropolis condominium, reported Carolyn McClair, a spouse and children spokesperson.

A previous jazz club operator and aspiring pianist, Wein introduced the Newport Jazz Pageant in 1954 underneath pouring rain and with a lineup for the heavens — Billie Holiday getaway and Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Lester Youthful. Louis Armstrong was there the next year and Duke Ellington designed historical past in 1956, his band’s established showcasing an incredible, 27-refrain solo from saxophonist Paul Gonsalves that practically one-handedly revived the center-aged Ellington’s occupation.

Wein led the competition for far more than 50 many years and performers would incorporate pretty much every single significant jazz star, from Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk to Charles Mingus and Wynton Marsalis. Just in 1965, the invoice showcased Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, John Coltrane, Ellington, Gillespie, Davis and Monk.

“As a young pianist and club proprietor, he understood top quality, worshipped the giants of the songs, and established a groundbreaking Competition format that available the widest achievable range of jazz to substantially larger outdoor audiences,” Marsalis reported in a assertion. “He beloved telling stories about Chook, Duke and all of the greats, engaging in spirited debates on a range of topics, and was an optimistic supporter of young expertise.”

The success of Newport encouraged a wave of jazz festivals in the U.S. and Wein replicated his achievement globally, his other jobs together with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Competition and the Grande Parade du Jazz in Pleasant, France. His multiday, all-star gatherings had been also a product for rock festivals, no matter whether Woodstock in 1969 or the Lollapalooza excursions of current yrs.

Critic Gene Santoro noticed in 2003 that with no Wein, “everything from Woodstock to Jazz at Lincoln Heart may possibly have transpired differently — if it took place at all.” Wein “can justifiably assert to have invented, created and codified the up to date common new music pageant,” Santoro wrote.

The notion for Newport came in component from locals Louis and Elaine Lorillard, who urged Wein to arrange a jazz competition in their gilded vacation resort neighborhood in Rhode Island. Elaine Lorillard, a socialite, complained that the summer season scene was “terribly boring.” Her tobacco-heir spouse backed her up with a $20,000 donation.

Wein experienced never ever recognized of a massive-scale jazz competition, so, in the spirit of the tunes, he improvised — looking for to incorporate the strength and musicality of a Harlem jazz club with the ambience of a summer months classical concert in Tanglewood.

“What was a festival to me?” Wein afterwards said. “I experienced no rulebook to go by. I realized it experienced to be a little something exceptional, that no jazz supporter experienced at any time been exposed to.”

Wein did not only do the job with jazz musicians. In 1959, he and Pete Seeger started a companion folks festival that would aspect early performances by Joan Baez and Jose Feliciano between many others and keep track of the evolution of Bob Dylan from earnest troubadour to rule-breaking rock star.

Dylan’s show in 1963 served create him as the so-known as “voice of his generation,” but by 1965 he felt confined by the people neighborhood and turned up at Newport with an electric band. The response was typically beneficial, but there ended up enough boos from the crowd and conflicts backstage — Wein rejected the legend that Seeger tried to cut the ability cables to Dylan’s amps — to make Dylan’s visual appearance a landmark in rock and folk historical past.

In his memoir “Myself Among Some others,” Wein remembered confronting Dylan as he remaining the phase and demanding he return to perform something acoustic. When Dylan resisted, saying he did not have an acoustic guitar, Wein questioned for volunteers to lend him one and helped persuade Dylan to go back out. Yrs later on, Wein remained moved by reminiscences of listening to Dylan sing “It’s All About Now, Newborn Blue,” a farewell ballad in much more ways than just one.

“It was a farewell to the idealism and purity of the people revival,” Wein wrote. “There was no turning back — not for Dylan, not for everyone.”

The Newport festivals have led to a lot of movies and live performance albums, notably Murray Lerner’s Oscar-nominated 1967 documentary “Festival!”, with Dylan, Johnny Money and Howlin’ Wolf amid the performers. Wein would later bring in Led Zeppelin, Sly and the Family members Stone and James Brown and other rock and rhythm and blues functions. In 2020, when Newport went digital because of the pandemic, Wein launched Mavis Staples from his house in Manhattan.

Wein himself had been a pianist considering that childhood and he preserved an energetic music vocation, releasing “Wein, Women of all ages and Song,” “Swing That Music” and many other albums and producing annually appearances at the Newport pageant with his Newport All-Stars band. He was named a “Jazz Master” in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and received an honorary Grammy in 2014. Decades previously, President Clinton introduced his saxophone to the White Home stage for a celebration of the Newport Jazz Pageant.

Wein grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, his father a dentist with a gambling pattern and an eye for his secretary, his mother a pianist of “passable skills” and heiress to a paper goods fortune. As a teenager, he defied his loved ones by inviting Black musicians to their home and in his 20s he dated a Black woman, Joyce Alexander, whom he married in 1959. Joyce Wein, who became his business companion and closest adviser, died in 2005.

Wein saw himself as just an “average center-course, Jewish-American child,” although 1 easily bewitched by audio. He would bear in mind attending a Benny Goodman live performance and listening just a several toes absent from trumpeter Cootie Williams.

“For the period of the evening I stood on your own, vast-eyed, at the foot of the stage,” he wrote in “Myself Amongst Others,” released in 2003, “oblivious to the sea of couples swirling around the dance ground powering me.”

Wein enlisted in the Military through Globe War II and two times escaped attainable loss of life: Hitler died in April 1945 as Wein and other people ended up nearing the German entrance. Months afterwards, he was spared currently being transferred to the Pacific when the Japanese surrendered.

He graduated from Boston College and started off the Storyville jazz club and report label in Boston, exactly where Ellington, Charlie Parker and other people came. Wein even acquired to be part of some of the performances, such as taking part in piano for a established by Vacation, whose regular keyboardist had not showed up.

The Newport pageant lasted in spite of ongoing conflicts, no matter if objections from the locals in Newport, the declining enchantment of jazz, or the demands and resentments of the musicians. In 1960, Mingus organized a rival competition to protest Wein’s alleged favoritism between performers and a riot at the Newport gathering led to Wein’s getting sidelined till 1962. In 1971, the booking of the Allman Brothers Band proved disastrous when rock supporters overran the pageant grounds, even placing sheet audio on fireplace, and introduced about a decade-extensive exile from Newport.

Wein, when explained by The New Yorker’s Lillian Ross as a stocky male “who appeared to be filled with managed frenzy,” was a fighter who faced down racist officials in New Orleans and chastised Monk for waiting around also extended to take the phase in Newport. He was also very good at math. He recruited Sinatra, Dionne Warwick and other common singers to enable help the jazz artists. In the mid-1970s, he was battling fiscally and turned among the the initially well known tunes promoters to work with corporate sponsors, notably the makers of Kool cigarettes.

In 2005, he sold his company Festival Productions Inc. to Pageant Network LLC and took on a extra constrained role at Newport. 6 yrs later on, he recognized the nonprofit Newport Festivals Basis to oversee the summertime activities.

“I want the festivals to go on without end,” Wein informed The Associated Push at the time. “With me it is not a make any difference of organization. This is my lifetime.”


Connected Push writer Michelle R. Smith contributed from Providence, Rhode Island. Previous AP author Charles J. Gans also contributed to this report.

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