In the coming months, the city of Newport, R.I., will honor jazz impresario George Wein by erecting a statue in his honor. The campaign, called “Generations of Jazz: A Newport Legacy: A Landmark Tribute to Jazz and George Wein,” is co-chaired by Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis, and is seeking contributions toward the cost of the project.
The Newport Jazz Festival began in 1954, largely due to the efforts of Wein. Born in Boston in 1925, Wein was running the famed Storyville Club when he was approached by cigarette money heir Louis Lorillard about doing something with jazz in Newport. Since Storyville closed in the summer due to slow business, Wein decided he would attempt to put on a jazz festival equivalent to the successful classical summer series at Tanglewood, Mass.
The first Newport Jazz Festival took place at the Newport Casino, and from then on the festival, now known as the JVC Jazz Festival-Newport, became a staple for the jazz concertgoer. Today, Wein’s New York City-based Festival Productions stages more than a thousand music events internationally each year.
“It is our aim to give George Wein a permanent place as a part of jazz history in Newport. A statue in his honor not only will recognize George Wein’s place in jazz history, but will also recognize Newport’s role as the host city of these events,” co-chairs Marsalis and Brubeck stated. The statue itself will be of George sitting at his piano and will be located on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Memorial Boulevard in the center of Newport.
Massachusetts based sculptor Robert Shure has been chosen to design the piece. Shure has designed such works as the George Washington Memorial at the Washington Monument and the Boston and Rhode Island Korean War Memorials.
Currently, money is being raised through mailings, and additional funds will be raised in Newport through a concert featuring Marsalis performing at the site of the first jazz festival, the Newport Casino Complex, to which all donors will be invited. In addition to honorary co-chairs Marsalis and Brubeck, the campaign committee is comprised of several local figures, including Rhode Island senator Jack F. Reed and Newport Mayor Richard Sardella.
If you are interested in making a contribution, mail gifts to: Generations of Jazz, P.O. Box 2514, Newport, RI, 02840, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected], or call Sandra Sebring at 401-253-7468 or Mary Miller at 401-351-1243.Originally Published