George Wein, Jazz Competition Trailblazer, Is Lifeless at 95


George Wein, the impresario who nearly single-handedly turned the jazz pageant right into a worldwide phenomenon, died on Monday at his condominium in Manhattan. He was 95.

His loss of life was introduced by a spokeswoman, Carolyn McClair.

Jazz festivals weren’t a completely new thought when Mr. Wein (pronounced ween) was approached about presenting a weekend of jazz within the open air in Newport, R.I., in 1954. There had been sporadic makes an attempt at such occasions, notably in each Paris and Good in 1948. However there had been nothing as formidable because the pageant Mr. Wein staged that July on the grounds of the Newport On line casino, an athletic complicated close to the historic mansions of Bellevue Avenue.

With a lineup together with Billie Vacation, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and different stars, the inaugural Newport Jazz Competition drew 1000’s of paying prospects over two days and attracted the eye of the information media. It barely broke even; Mr. Wein later recalled that it made a revenue of $142.50, and that it ended up within the black solely as a result of he waived his $5,000 producer’s charge.

However it was profitable sufficient to benefit a return engagement, and earlier than lengthy the Newport pageant had established itself as a jazz establishment — and as a template for the way to current music within the open air on a grand scale.

By the center 1960s, festivals had turn out to be as necessary as nightclubs and live performance halls on the itinerary of nearly each main jazz performer, and Mr. Wein had come to dominate the pageant panorama.

He didn’t have the sector to himself: Main occasions just like the Monterey Jazz Competition in California, which started in 1958, and the Montreux Jazz Competition in Switzerland, which started in 1967, had been the work of different promoters. However for half a century, if there was a big jazz pageant wherever on this planet, there was a greater than even likelihood it was a George Wein manufacturing.

On the peak of his success, Mr. Wein was producing occasions in Warsaw, Paris, Seoul and elsewhere abroad, in addition to everywhere in the United States.

Newport remained his flagship, and it rapidly turned often called a spot the place jazz historical past was made. Miles Davis was signed to Columbia Data on the energy of his impressed enjoying on the 1955 pageant. Duke Ellington’s profession, which had been in decline, was reinvigorated a 12 months later when his rousing efficiency at Newport landed him on the duvet of Time journal. The 1958 pageant was captured on movie by the photographer Bert Stern within the documentary “Jazz on a Summer time’s Day,” one of the celebrated jazz motion pictures ever made.

Mr. Wein’s empire prolonged past jazz. It included the Newport Folks Competition, which performed an important position within the careers of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and plenty of different performers. (It was at Newport that Mr. Dylan despatched shock waves by means of the folks world by performing with an electrical band in 1965.) He additionally produced the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Competition, which showcased a broad vary of vernacular music in addition to the tradition and delicacies of New Orleans, and staged festivals dedicated to blues, soul, nation and even comedy.

His one enterprise into the world of rock was not a cheerful expertise. Gate-crashers disrupted the 1969 Newport Jazz Competition, whose invoice for the primary time included rock bands, amongst them Led Zeppelin and Sly and the Household Stone. The Newport metropolis fathers issued a ban on such acts the following summer time; when each rock (the Allman Brothers) and the gate-crashers returned in 1971, Mr. Wein was not invited again. (The Newport Folks Competition, which had not been held in 1970 however was scheduled for later in the summertime of 1971, was canceled.)

He was not discouraged. In 1972 he moved the Newport Jazz Competition to New York Metropolis, the place it turned a much less bucolic however extra grandiose affair, with concert events at Carnegie Corridor, Lincoln Heart, Radio Metropolis Music Corridor and different areas round city. Beneath varied names and company sponsors, the New York occasion continued to thrive for nearly 40 years. As well as, the jazz pageant returned to Newport in 1981 and the folks pageant in 1985, each as soon as once more beneath Mr. Wein’s auspices.

Mr. Wein’s success in presenting jazz and people at Newport helped pave the best way for the phenomenon of Woodstock and the profusion of rock festivals within the late 1960s and early ’70s. However jazz was all the time his old flame.

He was a jazz musician earlier than he was a jazz entrepreneur. He started enjoying piano professionally as an adolescent and continued into his 80s, main small teams, often billed because the Newport All-Stars, at his festivals and elsewhere. (He carried out in public for the primary time in a number of years at Newport in 2019. It was, he introduced, “my final efficiency as a jazz musician.”)

He was a superb participant, within the relaxed, melodic vein of the nice swing pianist Teddy Wilson, with whom he briefly studied. However he decided early on that enjoying jazz could be a precarious manner for him to make a residing, and he turned extra centered on presenting it.

The success of Mr. Wein’s Boston nightclub, Storyville, named after the red-light district of New Orleans the place legend has it jazz was born, led Elaine Lorillard, a rich Newport resident, to method him about producing what turned the primary Newport Jazz Competition, which she and her husband, Louis, financed. And the success of that pageant decided the path his profession would take.

George Theodore Wein was born on Oct. 3, 1925, in Lynn, Mass., close to Boston, and grew up within the close by city of Newton. His father, Barnet, was a physician. His mom, Ruth, was an beginner pianist. Each his mother and father, he recalled, liked present enterprise and inspired his curiosity in music, though they didn’t essentially see it as a profession choice.

Mr. Wein took his first piano classes at age eight and found jazz whereas in highschool. By the point he entered Northeastern College in Boston, he was starting to assume severely a few profession in jazz.

He served within the Military from 1944 to 1946, spending a while abroad however not seeing fight, and enrolled in Boston College after being discharged. Earlier than graduating with a level in historical past in 1950, he was working steadily as a jazz pianist round Boston.

In his autobiography, “Myself Amongst Others: A Life in Music” (2003), written with Nate Chinen, he mentioned that he knew by then that “music was an important a part of my being,” however that he additionally knew that he “had neither the boldness nor the need to commit my life to being knowledgeable jazz musician.” By the autumn of 1950 he was a full-time nightclub proprietor; by the summer time of 1954 he was a pageant promoter.

Mr. Wein encountered some tough occasions within the early years of the Newport Jazz Competition. In 1960 the bassist Charles Mingus and the drummer Max Roach, protesting what they known as Mr. Wein’s overly business reserving coverage, staged a smaller “insurgent” pageant in one other a part of Newport in direct competitors. However each occasions had been overshadowed when throngs of drunken youths, unable to get tickets to Mr. Wein’s pageant, descended on the town, throwing rocks and breaking retailer home windows. Metropolis officers shut the Newport Jazz Competition down, though the Mingus-Roach occasion was allowed to proceed.

On account of the rioting, Mr. Wein’s allow was revoked, and he didn’t return to Newport in 1961. A pageant billed as Music at Newport, staged by one other promoter and that includes a variety of music together with some jazz, was offered as a substitute however was not profitable. Mr. Wein was allowed again the following 12 months, and the pageant continued with out incident till the top of the last decade.

Protection of Mr. Wein within the jazz press grew extra adverse over time, and the criticism would persist for the remainder of his profession. In 1959, the critic Nat Hentoff known as the Newport Jazz Competition a “sideshow” that had “nothing to do with the way forward for jazz.” (Mr. Hentoff later modified his tune: In 2001 he wrote that Mr. Wein had “expanded the viewers for jazz greater than another promoter within the music’s historical past.”)

Mr. Wein was generally attacked as exploitive, money-hungry, unimaginative in his programming and too keen to current non-jazz artists at his jazz festivals — criticism first heard when he booked Chuck Berry at Newport in 1958, and heard once more when he booked the likes of Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and even the folks group the Kingston Trio (who carried out at each the folks and jazz festivals in 1959). He professed to take the criticism in stride, however in his autobiography he left little doubt that he had forgotten none of it, quoting a lot of his worst notices and patiently explaining why they had been fallacious.

The 2 Newport festivals had been established as nonprofit ventures, however in 1960 Mr. Wein shaped an organization, Competition Productions, to run what quickly turned a worldwide empire. On the firm’s peak it was producing festivals and excursions in some 50 cities worldwide. Over time he additionally tried his hand at private administration and file manufacturing.

After years of, by his account, struggling to interrupt even, Mr. Wein turned a pioneer in company sponsorship within the late 1960s and ’70s, enlisting beer, tobacco and audio tools corporations to underwrite his festivals and excursions. There was the Schlitz Salute to Jazz, the Kool Jazz Competition and, most enduringly, a partnership with the Japanese electronics large JVC, which started in 1984 and lasted till 2008.

“I by no means realized that you would earn cash till sponsors got here alongside,” he informed The New York Occasions in 2004. “The credibility we’d been engaged on all these years all the time introduced media discover. After which the chance for media discover was picked up by sponsors.”

In 1959, Mr. Wein married Joyce Alexander, who labored alongside him as a vp of Competition Productions for 4 many years. She died in 2005. No quick members of the family survive.

Over time Mr. Wein acquired quite a few honors and accolades. He was named a Nationwide Endowment for the Arts Jazz Grasp in 2005 and inducted into the French Legion of Honor in 1991. He was honored by two presidents, Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Invoice Clinton in 1993, at all-star White Home jazz concert events celebrating the anniversary of the primary Newport Jazz Competition. In 2015, the Recording Academy gave him a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement.

In 2007, 9 years after a deal to promote 80 % of Competition Productions to Black Leisure Tv fell by means of, the corporate was acquired by a newly shaped firm, the Competition Community. Mr. Wein remained concerned, however as an worker — a type of producer emeritus — and never the boss.

Issues modified once more in 2009, when the Competition Community bumped into monetary issues and Mr. Wein regained management of the handful of festivals left in what had as soon as been an enormous empire. (At first he was legally prevented from utilizing the names Newport Jazz Competition and Newport Folks Competition as a result of they belonged to the Competition Community, however he reacquired the rights in 2010.)

He additionally discovered new sponsors for the Newport Jazz Competition — first a medical tools firm and later an asset administration agency, Natixis — to interchange his longtime company companion, JVC. The folks pageant, whose sponsors lately had included Ben & Jerry’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, had by then been with out sponsorship for a number of years; each festivals had been later partly sponsored by the jewellery firm Alex and Ani.

In 2011 Mr. Wein introduced that each Newport festivals, the one occasions he was nonetheless producing, would turn out to be a part of a brand new nonprofit group, the Newport Festivals Basis.

He finally handed over the reins of each festivals, though he remained concerned till the top. Jay Candy turned producer of the folks pageant in 2009 and 6 years later was named govt producer of the Newport Festivals Basis. In 2016 Danny Melnick was promoted from affiliate producer to producer of the jazz pageant, and the jazz bassist and bandleader Christian McBride, who had carried out at Newport quite a few occasions since 1991, was named inventive director.

The coronavirus pandemic brought about the cancellation of each festivals in 2020, however they had been again the following 12 months. Mr. Wein had deliberate to attend the 2021 jazz pageant, however on July 28, simply two days earlier than it was scheduled to start, he introduced on social media that he wouldn’t be there. (He did take part remotely, introducing the singers Mavis Staples, by telephone, and Andra Day, by way of FaceTime.)

“At my age of 95, making the journey will likely be too troublesome for me,” he wrote. “I’m heartbroken to overlook seeing all my mates.” However, he added, with a brand new workforce in place to run each festivals, “I can see that my legacy is in good fingers.”

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