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George Wein

Famous as the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and for his work in producing a countless number of festivals and concerts, George Wein is also an underrated swing pianist. Born in Boston in 1925, Wein started pursuing a career in medicine because his father was an important doctor, but music took over. Wein was classically trained as a pianist but much more attracted to jazz. His playing has always been influenced by Earl Hines, Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson. Wein was doing fine as a pianist, mostly performing in the Boston area, when he started booking jazz bands into the Savoy nightclub. In 1950 he operated the Storyville night club in Boston, which was located in the Copley Square Hotel. For the next decade he booked all styles of jazz into the now-legendary club and his work as a booking agent overshadowed his piano playing. After starting the Newport Jazz Festival with the Lorillard family, Wein founded Festival Productions and became a very important force in booking festivals and concerts, working on over 1,000 events. While often only playing part-time, Wein enjoyed leading the Newport All-Stars, an all-star group that played Dixieland and swing that in the early 1960s featured clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, tenor-saxophonist Bud Freeman and cornetist Ruby Braff. Later versions of the group included Red Norvo, Joe Venuti, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Clark Terry, Illinois Jacquet and Flip Phillips among the sidemen. Wein recorded as a pianist and vocalist for Atlantic in the mid-1950s and has recorded with the Newport All Stars for Smash, Impulse, Columbia, Atlantic, MPS, Concord and Columbia. He remains an enthusiastic and swinging performer. His autobiography, Myself Among Others: A Memoir, is full of colorful anecdotes.