Legendary concert promoter George Wein recalls when he brought the giants of jazz to President Jimmy Carter’s White House in 1978.
In the fall of 1977, Joyce and I retreated again to the home we had acquired in Vence, France. After the manic energy of another New York festival, this was just what we needed. Yet a producer’s mind is rarely respectful of vacations. One afternoon in Vence, I hit the tennis courts with a man named Les Lieber, who rented a house in the next valley. Les was a public relations man by trade, and a saxophonist by hobby; he ran a weekly jam session called “Jazz at Noon” for other musically inclined businessmen and professionals. I didn’t know him well, but we were friendly. That day, we got to talking about the festival. I mentioned that it would soon be 25 years since the first American jazz festival in Newport. “That’s a big anniversary,” Les pointed out. “You should be honored in some way. Why not an event at the White House?”