Wein, George 1925-

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WEIN, George 1925-


Name is pronounced "ween"; born October 3, 1925, in Boston, MA; son of Barnet M. (a physician) and Ruth (a pianist) Wein; married Joyce Alexander (a writer and biochemist), 1959. Education: Boston University, B.A., 1950. Hobbies and other interests: Food, photography, golf, collecting art.


Home—New York, NY. Office—Festival Productions Inc., 311 West 74th St., New York, NY 10023-1604.


Music-festival promoter, pianist, singer, educator, and author. Storyville Records, Boston, MA, founder, 1956; Boston Herald, Boston, jazz columnist, 1956-59; Festival Productions Inc., New York, NY, founder and CEO, 1962—. Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, New York, NY, founder and producer. Producer of music festivals and gatherings, including Newport Jazz Festival, 1954—, Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, 1962—, Grande Parade du Jazz, 1974, White House Jazz Festival, 1978, Munich Jazz Festival, 1979, Playboy Jazz Festival, 1979, and JVC Jazz Festival, 1984—. Performer with musical group Newport Jazz Festival All-Stars, 1982—. Military service: U.S. Army, 1943, served with army engineers in Europe during World War II.


Honorary doctorate, Berklee College of Music, 1976; named to French Order of Arts and Letters, 1980; Frederick Douglass Award, New York Urban League, 1980; named to French Legion d'Honneur, 1981, for creation of Contemporary Jazz Festival; Lifetime Achievement Award for Cultural Innovation, Da Capo Foundation, 1999; Beacons in Jazz Award, New School University, 1999; Golden Scroll Award, Jewish Advocate; Duke Ellington/Shepherd of the Night Flock Award, St. Peter's Jazz Ministries; Lifetime Achievement Award, Down Beat magazine; honorary degree, Rhode Island College.


(With Nate Chinen) Myself among Others (memoir), Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals such as Down Beat, Jazz Times, and Pennsylvania Gazette.


A major voice in jazz and music for more than fifty years, George Wein is a pioneer of the jazz festival and the outdoor music venue. As a jazz club owner, concert entrepreneur, and music impresario, Wein has encountered legendary talents, helped musicians on their way to survival or stardom, and assured a place for himself as one of the most influential forces in the history of jazz, both in the United States and internationally. "Not many people can say they changed the world and make it stick," remarked Gene Santoro in Nation. "Without Wein," Santoro continued, "everything from Woodstock to Jazz at Lincoln Center might have happened differently—if it happened at all." Wein, Santoro wrote, "can justifiably claim to have invented, developed and codified the contemporary popular music festival."

In Myself among Others, Wein, along with cowriter Nate Chinen, recounts his long and groundbreaking career in jazz and music promotion. Wein's "autobiography has the musical pulse of a great concert," remarked Joel Hirschhorn in Variety. "It's a literary festival, a feast of fascinating information about the jazz world that gains its heartbeat from the affection Wein feels for music. Wein is a businessman," Hirschhorn continued, "but he reached the heights because he felt 'my primary motivation continued to be my concern for the musicians themselves'"

The son of a physician and a pianist, Wein showed early interest in music and singing. In an interview with John Koch in the Boston Globe, Wein recalled, "I started classical piano at [age] seven or eight.…I never thought I'd be a professional musician, but I always played." After a stint in the army during World War II, he took money originally earmarked for his education and opened a jazz club in Boston in 1950. Wein named it Storyville, in honor of the New Orleans district of the same name where jazz originated. The club became popular but closed after six weeks due to conflicts with its landlords. The club reopened elsewhere, and Wein quickly learned vital lessons about the music business.

In 1954 Wein stepped definitively into the history of music and jazz when he founded the Newport Jazz Festival. Encouraged by wealthy Newport socialites Louis and Elaine Lorillard, Wein built an outdoor festival featuring luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and other jazz legends. The Newport festival thrived, and Wein expanded the concept to include other musical styles and cities. He founded other important festivals such as the Newport Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In 1960 Wein became a full-time producer and promoter of dozens of festivals per year. "It didn't take a genius to think up the phrase 'jazz festival,'" Wein told Don Heckman in the Los Angeles Times. "It really wasn't anything more than the desire to bring people together in a pleasant setting, to experience music that they wanted to hear."

Jason Berry, writing in New Orleans magazine, noted that the pages of Myself among Others "teem with episodes about legendary figures in the music, fused with a candor intercut with surprising strains of tenderness." "Wein's experiences with musicians, from Miles to Mingus, make this an important, valuable addition to the jazz history shelf," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "And the funny thing," Wein observed in his interview with Heckman, "is that you don't realize you're making history when you're in the middle of doing things."



Feather, Leonard G., editor, Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties, Horizon Press (New York, NY), 1966.

Feather, Leonard G., and Ira Gitler, editors, Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, Horizon Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Goldblatt, Burt, Newport Jazz Festival: The Illustrated History, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1977.


Billboard, October 7, 2000, Jim Bessman, "George Wein: The Billboard Interview," pp. W4-W7.

Boston Globe, July 26, 1998, John Koch, interview with Wein, p. 10; August 7, 2003, Jack Thomas, "In Full Swing at 77, Jazz Impresario and Newport Festival Founder George Wein Is Still Making Music Happen,"p. C13; July 14, 2003, Clea Simon, review of Myself among Others, p. C6.

Business Week, May 25, 1992, Ron Stodghill, "The Man Who Keeps Jazz on the 'A' Train," p. 56.

Choice, December, 2003, C. M. Weisengerg, review of Myself among Others, p. 720.

Down Beat, April, 1998, Michael Bourne, "George Wein: Father of the Jazz Fest" (interview), p. 36; October, 2003, John McDonough, review of Myself among Others, p. 80; May, 2004, McDonough, "Newport's Golden Hour," pp. 92-94, 96-97.

Jewish Advocate, September 10, 1992, Stephen Provizer, "Backstage with George Wein: Listening to the Soundtrack of Dreams," p. 5.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Myself among Others, p. 526.

Library Journal, April 15, 2003, James E. Perone, review of Myself among Others, p. 89.

Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2003, Don Heckman, "Mixed up but So Together," p. E1; June 22, 2003, Grover Sales, review of Myself among Others, p. R6.

Nation, July 14, 2003, Gene Santoro, review of Myself among Others, pp. 35-37.

New Orleans Magazine, August, 2003, Jason Berry, "The Man Who Made the Jazz Fest," p. 34.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 23, 1999, "Jazzfest Ages like Fine Wein," p. B1; April 30, 2003, Lolis Eric Elie, "Innovator's Vision Led to Jazzfest," p. B1.

New York Times, August 2, 2001, John Leland, "Art, Life, and All That Jazz," p. F1; July 8, 2003, Peter Keepnews, review of Myself among Others, p. E6; June 11, 2004, Ben Ratliff, "Jazz Impresario Tries New Idea: Jazz, Just Jazz," p. E1.

Publishers Weekly, May 19, 2003, review of Myself among Others, p. 63.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 1998, James Sullivan, "The Godfather of Folk Festivals—George Wein Takes His Famous Newport Production on the Road," p. E1.

Variety, December 22, 2003, Joel Hirschhorn, review of Myself among Others, p. 54.

Village Voice, June 10, 1997, Gary Giddins, "Twenty-five Years in New York: George Wein Speaks,"pp. J2-J5.

Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2001, Lisa Scherzer, "Workspaces," p. B16; May 23, 2003, Tom Nolan, review of Myself among Others, p. W14.

Washington Post Book World, May 18, 2003, Jonathan Yardley, review of Myself among Others, p. 2.*