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Myself Among Others by George Wein and Nate Chinen

Two Jewish kids born a year apart nearly 80 years ago—one in Boston, the other in Brooklyn—decided to make jazz their lives: one became an impresario, the other a maestro.

The impresario became a leading figure in jazz and popular music, forever changing the way it was heard by its audience. It was George Wein, who, borrowing from the idea of the summer venue for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood, invented the jazz festival. He thus created new listeners for jazz geniuses such as Duke Ellington, whose career was languishing when he made his famous Newport appearance in 1956. Suddenly, Ellington was back on top with his picture on the cover of Time magazine and the recording of his Newport concert became his biggest-selling album ever.

Wein has touched the lives of virtually every major jazz musician in history. While running the Boston jazz club Storyville, accomplished jazz pianist Wein accompanied both Sidney Bechet and Lester Young, among many other giants. He is the Forrest Gump of jazz, recounting multiple stories of running into or working with key artists. Even his first piano teacher, the formidable Madame (Margaret) Chaloff, provided Wein with a connection: She was the mother of baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff.

Myself Among Others is vital for anyone interested in more than just the music of jazz. Wein’s story is not so much about how to create the music, but about how he helped jazz survive and thrive. This book will be a classic.

Fortunately for jazz fans, both Wein and Terry Gibbs have taken the trouble to record the stories of their pioneering efforts to open up the jazz door to many, and their first-hand experiences, as Jews, to have others try to close that door in their faces.

The maestro, Terry Gibbs, while not as influential, was also at the forefront of creating new audiences for jazz. Born Julius Gubenko in Brooklyn in 1924, Gibbs was a prodigy on vibraphone. He later became a bandleader for TV “personalities,” such as the first Tonight Show host, Steve Allen, and talk-show host Regis Philbin, helping pave the way for Doc Severinsen, Branford Marsalis and others.

In Good Vibes, Gibbs writes as though he is telling stories in a bar, smacking chewing gum and cracking wise like the former Borscht belt entertainer he was as a kid. Gibbs, though, is a national treasure, and his book, part of a series sponsored by the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, provides invaluable insight into what it was like to live and play with performers ranging from swingers Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich to boppers like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell.

Originally Published