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George Wein: A Great Day in Washington

Jimmy Carter comforts a weeping Charles Mingus (photo: Karl Esch)
Jimmy Carter comforts a weeping Charles Mingus (photo: Karl Esch)
Jimmy Carter performs "Salt Peanuts" with Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach
Charles and Sue Graham Mingus watch Herbie Hancock perform
Zoot Sims slips a little hooch into Roy Eldridge's cup as Doc Cheatham looks on
Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown and Sims go over some charts
Jimmy Carter and Cecil Taylor
Jimmy Carter and George Wein

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?”

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Originally Published
Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen is the director of editorial content for WBGO and a longtime contributor to JazzTimes, which published 125 installments of his column “The Gig” between 2004 and 2017. For 12 years, he was a critic for The New York Times; prior to that, he wrote about jazz for the Village Voice, the Philadelphia City Paper, and several other publications. He is the author of Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century (2018) and the co-author of George Wein’s autobiography Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (2003).