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Newport’s Patron Saint: George Wein

George Wein

Christian McBride settled into a chair onstage and flashed a knowing smile. It was Sunday afternoon at Fort Adams in Newport, R.I., and for the moment he was working not as a bass player but rather an interviewer, as he does on his Sirius/XM satellite radio show. There had been a problem, said McBride, waving an unlit cigar: His scheduled guest backed out, leaving him to scramble for a replacement. The solution, simple in retrospect, was to enlist Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein.

Of course: George Wein to the rescue. It was the weekend’s overarching theme. After a saga involving the sale of his production company, the subsequent flameout of the buyer and the last-minute emergence of a title sponsor, this was the festival of false endings and fresh beginnings. Still, it only happened because Wein, at 83, committed to it regardless of subsidy, balking at the prospect of a summer with no major jazz fête in Newport. “I just couldn’t let that happen,” he told McBride. “My whole life is involved here.”

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